Despite having made a career of radical moves, Kate Bush's recent announcement that she intends on playing her first live gigs in thirty-five years is one of the most radical of them all. She is offering people the opportunity of witnessing something nobody has before; a mature Bush concert experience. Be under no illusions, the woman has released seven albums of original material since 1979, the year of her first and only tour. One of those albums is Hounds of Love. Nobody knows what Hounds of Love sounds like live. It's tempting to simply type out the tracklisting of Hounds of Love and leave the article at that.
But there's so much more! So here is my approximate fantasy. What I'd like to hear Kate Bush perform live. I think you'll agree is an unusually selfless fantasy- I make allowances for what a general audience will need to hear. That's one of the great things about Kate: her hit songs are absolutely as marvellous as her rarefied songs.
1. You're The One
Starting with 1993's The Red Shoes closer would not only be incredibly exciting (the song has no introduction, beginning with Bush's already-heartbroken voice) but it could act as icebreaker for the 35 year live abstention, with the choruses' “You're the only one I love” being either literally or figuratively directed at the audience.
2. Army Dreamers
Representing a serious change in tack, this kooky-colourful single from Never For Ever would handily reacquaint the audience with Bush's range as a songwriter/performer. The waltzing Mandolin motif heralds later magic, thoroughly whetting the audience's appetite.
Turning the colour dial all the way up next, with the rolling melodiousness of “Cloudbusting”. This Kate classic was an obvious precursor to Coldplay's Viva la Vida, though its' synth-pad strings are somehow more effective and elegant than what came after, despite pre-dating it by twenty three years- which is one way to measure the difference between talent and money.
The joyful noise continues with the impossible-to-mistake “Babooshka”. In a career not short on memorable choruses this song is marked by its singalongability, as well as sporting some chockful piano chords and choice synthetic instrumentation.
5. The Song of Solomon
Gear change, and a chance for the audience to perhaps be introduced to a lesser-heard Bush ballad. “The Song of Solomon” is a work which easily ranks with her greatest songs. It muses around some bruised, grey-blue chords while Kate sings with a fulsome sense of yearning: “...write me your poetry in motion... sign it with a kiss”. The song finds her in particularly sensuous, sonorous vintage.
6. Wuthering Heights
For the fans who were first spooked into loving Bush by her original hit this will be a necessary inclusion, preferably with choreography intact.
7. James and The Cold Gun
The first single that might have been should follow the first single that (rightfully) was. Bush fought for 'Wuthering Heights', and it should be obvious to even the most passive observer that her vindication is complete. However, contrasting the two songs is interesting, and there's a reason the latter was championed by her label. Let us rediscover that reason in a live context.
8. This Woman's Work
Though it's been overplayed, denying any audience the soul-weep which awaits them, almost from the moment this song begins with those impossibly vulnerable oh hoahs, would be an unimaginably brutish act.
9. Hello Earth
Hello Earth's melodic framework is so epic, it's production is so ambitious (and ambition-achieving) that it gives one the image of Kate singing from the lip of the moon's horizon, greeting our blue-green orb as she approaches it, flying through soundless space. In fact the lyric describes a very much planet-bound Bush singing “With just one hand, held up high, I can blot you out, out of sight. Peek-a-boo, peek-a-boo, little earth”. The piece is one of the most awe-inspiring in her ouvre, and a live rendition would no doubt sound something like the polarity of the planet being reversed.
10. An Endless Sky of Honey
There are two major song-cycles or medleys in Kate's recorded output. One, The Ninth Wave, takes up the second side of Hounds of Love and, though startling and almost aggressively brilliant, it doesn't have the cohesion of the other, late-period segue on her 2005 double album Aerial. The tracks on that disc are comprehensively interwoven in a way which makes them part of a living, breathing whole, while still remaining distinguishable as individual songs or pieces. Indeed, on the reissue of Aerial, disc two is formatted as a single track as opposed to the original nine separate ones. The full forty two minutes are revelatory, and would make for a rapturous live experience. They involve the listener in hearing Kate Bush chirp along with birdsong on central piece “Aerial Tal”, with her chirps and trills turning to more simple and open hearted laughter on the dramatic closer “Aerial”. Just to reiterate, there is a moment in this sequence while Kate Bush laughs along with birdsong.
Other of the highpoints include the sun-bleached organ chords and quicksilver gait of the drums on the melodically impressionistic “Somewhere In Between”, the woozy midnight-flavoured extended introduction to “Nocturn”, which drops an unexpectedly fluid bassline rhythm into place for the verses, and the peerless composition “Sunset”, whose lyric runs majestically: “Who knows who wrote that song of summer, that blackbirds sing at dusk, this is a song of colour, where sands sing in crimson, red and rust, then climb into bed and turn to dust”. The song has a magical power which would have gratified Helios himself; I think he would have especially liked the flamenco guitars.
11. The Sensual World
The perfect, cooling outro, with serene Irish string instrumentation and Bush's purred/whispering intonations of “Mmmmm, yes!” What a sensual world's Kate's is.
Do you agree with Rich? Any glaring ommissions? Are you going to Kate's shows at the end of summer?