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Music

Kate Bush on the most extraordinary live act she has ever seen

@TomTaylorFO

It is fair to say that Kate Bush is somewhat of a marmite performer. Her brand of spiritualistic expression is so singular that it can send some folks to exultant heights and others feeling like sceptics at a séance. 

The Guardian once said she was an “odd combo of artiness and artlessness,” and dismissed her as a “middlebrow soft option.” And NME followed up the barrage with the following: “[Kate Bush] all the unpleasant aspects of David Bowie in the Mainman era…. [Bowie manager] Tony DeFries would’ve loved you seven years ago, Kate, and seven years ago maybe I would’ve too. But these days I’m past the stage of admiring people desperate to dazzle and bemuse, and I wish you were past the stage of trying those tricks yourself.”

However, for all the critical stick she has received from some corners, her ardent fanbase and a slew of opposing flawless reviews shrug it off with grace. As the loving Big Boi of Outkast once said: “Music is supposed to evoke emotion and male people feel a certain way whether it’s happy or sad or make you think. So, I love Kate Bush.”

As it happens, she also provided him with the greatest live show he had ever witnessed with her Before the Dawn tour. “I went to this show in London and it was one of the greatest concerts, well, it’s not even a concert, I would say it was a presentation of excellence. It was a play. Three intermissions. It was about three-plus hours. The message is in the music. I didn’t understand a lot of it until I started listening to the words. Like ‘Breathing’ is about a pregnant mother smoking; ‘Running Up That Hill’ was about your faith,” he said. 

Continuing: “The changes in the music was something that I took away, where no one song would stay in one lane, it would progress and morph into different things, and there’d be preludes and epilogues. The listener can close their eyes and kind of envision where you are and it can take them on an adventure.”

And by chance, his love affair with her music started alongside the live act that Kate Bush herself crowns the greatest of all time. “My uncle Russell, my mother’s brother, he was like a skateboarder, he was the nerd in the family, like a black goth kid back in the 1980s. He turned me on to Kate Bush and early Prince and stuff like that,” Big Boi recalled. 

While Prince and Kate Bush might seem different on the surface their dalliance and obsession with following spiritual whims is a unifying factor that sets them apart from most. Following his tragic death in 2016, Bush was left devastated and painfully wrote: “He was the most incredibly talented artist. A man in complete control of his work from writer and musician to producer and director. He was such an inspiration. Playful and mind-blowingly gifted. He was the most inventive and extraordinary live act I’ve seen. The world has lost someone truly magical. Goodnight dear Prince.”

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She later opened up further when discussing her collaboration with Prince with BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt, saying: “He was really playful and really sweet. What a talented man, what an artist. I think it’s a terrible loss that he should go at such a young age, it’s incredibly sad. He was so prolific, he used to make me laugh because whilst I was working on an album, he would have done 2 world tours, a couple of albums and a film.”

“The most extraordinary live act I’ve seen,” is one hell of a testimony, but when it comes to Prince it was everyday praise. Part of that is due to the fact that he was one of the greatest instrumentalists ever, but part of it was because he understood that that wasn’t enough. As he put it himself: “Music is music, ultimately. If it makes you feel good, cool.”