Kate Bush’s unique performance of ‘Wuthering Heights’ live on the Tour of Life, 1979
If there’s one thing you can always categorise Kate Bush as it has to be ‘unique’. The singer’s style is wholeheartedly idiosyncratic as she delves into the literary world for lyric inspiration, the ballet world for her performance and a whole other dimension for her vocals.
Perhaps one of the most pertinent showings of these attributes coming together is with Bush’s performance of ‘Wuthering Heights’ during her one and only tour, 1979’s Tour of Life. It’s a joy to behold.
The song is a remarkable feat for Bush. Released in 1978, the song was the first track to be written and performed by a female which went to number one in the charts. It’s an impressive breakthrough but it’s even more impressive when you remember the content of the song is steeped in literary history.
As anyone who has studied English Literature at school will be able to tell you, the track was undoubtedly inspired by the novel written by Emily Brontë of the same name. Written in 1847 and published under her pseudonym Ellis Bell, Brontë’s novel has become a cultural touchpoint across the world.
The novel may have been written in the Yorkshire moors but the song was written in a leafy South London suburb in March of ’77. As London was swollen with punk, positively pulsating with feverish anger, Kate Bush was creating a masterful pop record: “There was a full moon, the curtains were open and it came quite easily,” Bush told her fan club in 1979.
She told Record Mirror in 1978, “Great subject matter for a song. I loved writing it. It was a real challenge to precis the whole mood of a book into such a short piece of prose.”
Bush continued, “Also when I was a child I was always called Cathy not Kate and I just found myself able to relate to her as a character. It’s so important to put yourself in the role of the person in a song. There’s no half measures. When I sing that song I am Cathy. (Her face collapses back into smiles.) Gosh, I sound so intense. ‘Wuthering Heights’ is so important to me. It had to be the single. To me, it was the only one.”
This connection can most certainly be seen in the video below. The clip captures Bush performing the track at the Hammersmith Odeon as part of her one and only tour, the Tour of Life. While Bush would once again take residency in that corner of London back in 2014, these dates represented Bush in her prime and performing her songs like an entire theatrical production.
Rehearsal footage has shown how much Bush gave to her performance but if you ever needed confirmation then this physically draining performance of ‘Wuthering Heights’ is all you need to see.