Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Empress, Unclothed?

I had been wondering to myself about the absence of dissenting views concerning the recent run of Kate Bush shows. About why were there so few chinks in the reigning consensus about Kate Bush as National Treasure. Apart from a few grouches on Facebook -  old punks who never liked her at the time -  I've not come across a peep of public negativity. The reviews seemed to be extravagantly praiseful. Personal testimonials on Facebook and message boards and so forth were uniformly of the "greatest show I ever saw in my life", "tears were running down my face for most of the performance"  type.   

Which is odd because one thing about the Internet surely is that it encourages contrarianism and dissenting views.  Polarising stances and breaks with consensus drive traffic for online publications; comment boxes are the stomping ground of naysayers and nitpickers. 

And then last weekend I got an email from my friend Sam Batra who mentioned in passing that she'd been to one of the the Bush concerts with her teenage daughter:

"What a monumental disappointment. The show was little more than a prog rock Jackanory, wish I had never seen it and had saved ourselves the best part of 300 quid."

I laughed out loud. Partly because of the reference to Jackanory  (a British kid-growing-up-in-the-70s/80s-only kind of thing, for sure). But also the shock of truth. See, I’m convinced I would have felt exactly the same if I'd gone. Much as I love many of Kate Bush's recordings, and sort of generally support the notion of excess and aspiration, pretence and pretentiousness....  I've got to admit, some of the old videos, and the footage of the 1979 tour, it's a little hard to stomach, don't you think? The still photos  of the current show, and some of the descriptions in the reviews, seemed to promise a similar sort of overblown, thesped-out hokum. 

I asked Sam for more details of  the disappointment: 

"My heart sunk right at the beginning when Kate and co 'conga-ed' onto the stage like some waifs and strays from an office party. Still, I tried to rally and remain optimistic. As things went on it seemed like the show was a vehicle for middle aged release, as I looked around the audience, everyone obediently in their seats, it struck me that some of these folk needed to get out more often. Was it a collective amnesia about what really comprises a great gig?.... . In the second half, I cast a glance at [my 15 year old daughter] who was falling asleep.

"Kate felt the need to plug her son, tell us all how much she loved him, 'more than anything else in the world'. Son, Bertie had been given a lead role in the excruciating panto. It did strike me that Bush had seen War Horse a few years ago and had been hopelessly influenced by it

".... I never want to hear Aerial so disappointed, she was such a heroine, wish this concert had never happened to us."

Wish this concert had never happened to us -  like it was a tragic accident, a personal calamity! 

Dearie me. I'm laughing but I do a feel a pang of pecuniary empathy for Sam.

300 quid!