The Kate Bush frenzy was quite an experience. Three of us, all on different laptops, shouting out updates: “it’s loading, it’s loading!”, “bugger, the site’s frozen”, “the 17th has gone – which others could we do?”, “hold, on – I can see available ones - yes, yes, I think I...YES.”
That final sentence is a shortened version of my screeching as I managed to secure tickets for my parents and me. We were immensely fortunate. Twitter (that general arbiter of public consensus) was divided between celebrations and lamentations.
It was quite incredible to see the explosion surrounding that first announcement. Suddenly everyone was a Kate Bush fan – with one or two in between the cacophony cleverly saying, “Oh, well I don’t really get the fuss.” She made headlines; old pictures dusted off to appear in print once more. Columns were filed and set-list predictions made. The brilliant 'Never Underdressed' even devoted a feature to her most memorable fashion choices.
Dismissing the scummy ticket touts, it would be interesting to know the varying motives behind those who rushed to secure concert places: nostalgia for the time when she was a fresh young thing? Final fulfilment for missing out on the1979 tour? An avid love for all things Kate? A younger generation - myself included - with our second hand vinyl and Hounds of Love on repeat in iTunes, keen to hear her live? Dare I say, for some, merely the desire to be able to say that they’ve seen her in the flesh – that they were there?
Part of the thrill of the entire thing rests in Kate Bush’s complete refusal of celebrity. We know little about her, beyond those mesmerizing songs. She was, and is, primarily a visual and vocal presence. Accessible through photographs, music videos and albums (as well as the occasional interview or documentary), our perception is informed by the clarity of her art and image, rather than her personal life. ‘Kate Bush’ as an entity is composed from that Wuthering Heights dance; those heavily outlined eyes in Army Dreamers; an array of outfits from leotards to long dresses; the kaleidoscope effect; soft focus videos later replaced with unfolding narratives – all topped off with a fuzz of big hair, outlandish facial expressions and a swooping voice.
We can chart her progress from ethereal sprite to sensual woman as the albums go by. Yet perhaps to label her as such, to suggest a clear movement from one to the other, is to limit her. Her videos yield multiple personas: of witch, warrior, schoolboy, theatre luvvie, woodland princess, dancer, explorer, bank robber, spurned wife, queen. And those are just a handful of the more easily recognisable characters. Try adjectives instead: witchy, weird, sensuous, playful, strong, fragile, feminine, androgynous, confident, athletic, otherworldly. All fit.
It’s that constant innovation and intelligence I adore. The keen creativity. The theatricality and continual reinvention. The songs that reach the nerves. Her voice has accompanied hours of dancing, jogging, fashion shoots, essay writing, surgery recovery, train journeys, sketching and evenings fuelled by friends, wine and conversation. She’s also one of the few artists I return to again and again for inspiration – be it for her fantastical dress sense, her sharp work ethic, her bold videos, unashamed individuality or just a bloody wonderful album.
When I was five, I’d raid the dressing up trunk and then spin around the living room to 'The Red Shoes'. Some thirteen years later, I’m now raiding my own wardrobe and spinning from place to place. And come September I’ll be raiding my most outrageous finery and spinning off to the Hammersmith Apollo. Who knows what we’ll see and hear there – but I’m sure it will be spectacular.
Need I explain the outfit? My homage to the (in)famous Kate Bush Wuthering Heights video (blurry still image below) was completed with a seventies dress from a vintage shop in Edinburgh, second hand accessories and shoes from Marks & Spencer. I managed to raise eyebrows from passing cars and had great fun leaping around the chilly, windy field. You can see a previous Kate Bush inspired shoot that I photographed with the gorgeous Evangeline Ling here.