Friday, 29 August 2014

Kate Bush and the Power of Words

I went to see Kate Bush on Wednesday. It was an amazing experience that touched the audience in a way I have never seen before. Philippa Francis (writing as K.M. Lockwood) wrote a wonderful piece inspired by her visit to the show the night before. You can read it here.

I have seen many bands in my time. Hundreds, literally. It was my job at one point. I've become a little jaded. These days I would much rather go to the theatre than a concert. This was different. This was Kate Bush. Who knew she'd tour again? It was beautiful, extravagant, theatrical, of course. She was gorgeous, her voice pure and perfect. All these are things that have been said before and will be said again as more people go and more people write reviews.

This isn't a review. This is my response to the experience. Because the thing that struck me most was not the voice, the staging, the choice of songs - though all were wonderful. It was the emotion, such sheer depth of emotion both expressed by Kate and her band, but also by us, the audience members collectively and singularly. When she walked on stage, and she did so in a very unassuming way, I felt quite overwhelmed. When she started singing I almost burst into tears. And I wondered why. David Bowie is my ultimate hero (I went to the V&A exhibition 3 times. I first saw him when I was 16. I love him, basically). But I've never felt like crying when I listen to his music or when I've seen him perform. So what does Kate do; what does she bring that is so different? Emotion.

This a woman with incredible songwriting skills. The music is fantastic, but I think the emotion she portrays is through her lyrics. The power of her words hold the emotion. Cloudbusting makes me cry. I have no idea why. Perhaps it's because she so perfectly captures the depth of feeling between the boy and his father. Perhaps it's because I 'get' their relationship, I feel their love, their pain.

I hid my yo-yo
In the garden
I can't hide you
From the government
Oh, God, Daddy
I won't forget

Written by Kate Bush / Lyrics © EMI Music Publishing

She writes with an honesty, a purity and a beauty that touches you, and lets you empathise with the character she sings about. Judging from the audience's reaction on Wednesday, she speaks to people of all ages, from all walks of life. We were all lifted by her songs. So is this something that only happens with music? Do you need to hear the lyrics with accompaniment to be so moved? No. It happens in film. It happens with books. With film you're given the same image as the person next to you. With music you're given more of a complete picture but it's open to interpretation. With books, the words must speak for themselves.

David Almond is one of the most lyrical writers I've had the pleasure to read. I wept buckets at the end of Kit's Wilderness. Without giving away the (fantastic) ending, it's all about belief, hope, trust. Some writers can capture emotion through the eyes of their characters, some in the beautiful choice of words. The words the writer chooses have the power to reach out and both deliver you to a new world and to echo feelings inside you. A writer who can do that, either through the written word or through song, will truly tap into your emotions and create a bond that is long lasting. A bond Kate Bush has managed to keep with her live audience even after a 35 year absence.

Right, now to find the tissues....


  1. Not self-indulgent, you ninny - lovely.

  2. definitely not self-indulgent, really thought provoking. Brilliant post!

  3. Great Post Sue, wish I'd been there.
    It's true isn't it it's the emotion that lifts a performance as much as a text.


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