By now, there will be plenty of reviews and critiques of Kate Bush and her concert last night in Hammersmith. Fans will chant a hymn of adoration: share, relive and adorn their experience. Detractors will mock and sneer to amuse their tribe.
My approach is neither of those things.
I write from my perspective – way up close to the deluxe beryl green art deco ceiling of the Apollo – for no such defined readership. Lucky me, I have few expectations to meet.
As we waited for her first concert after thirty-five years, my husband wondered aloud what she might be feeling. I thought about that too. How I have so often read artists in different media say:
I wonder if I can do it again? Will I pull it off this time?
And the astonishing thing, at least to me as a beginner with so much to learn, is that the most established, practised and loved artists in any field feel the same. Over and over again truly creative people doubt themselves.
From what I have read and understood the hard way, there are two ways to get through this. Both require a particular kind of focus. Not straining, not blinkered, but a sort of yearning.
First is a deep involvement with the piece of art itself – for itself. Growing it, wondering at it as an entity with its own existence. Through nurturing the song, the story, the dance, you lose sight of any pointing, leering critics and the dark pitfalls of the ego. Putting the sculpture, canvas or poem at the centre of the process means all helpful suggestions can be accepted – from whatever source.
This also means waiting until the text is ready to be performed, until the oils are quite dry and the frame is gilded, until all the right sound effects have been sourced.
Secondly, when leading this precious new being out onto the stage, introduce it first to just one person. Read your opening chapter for that one listener who truly hears what you’re saying. Focus on delighting that girl with the open face, that boy with his head cocked, paying attention.
I began to voice my focus-on-the-work-in-hand theory to my husband. Then the first stirrings on the stage led to joyous tumult all around us – fans standing and calling and waving their arms. There was no chance of discussion.
In the interval, I read the programme. It’s more of a work of art tracing the blooming of the stage show than any practical guide to what happened on stage. What struck me, though, was how the project had become an entity in Kate Bush’s experience – an ‘it’.
As for focusing on one person, I have no idea if she did that. What I observed was a woman surrounded by a creative hive and its outpourings. Protected perhaps, yet at the heart of the events. As the music and drama and stories burgeoned, it seemed to me she loosened. The stories the music told began to dance through her and that lovely voice soared free again. Older and different in timbre, certainly, but recognisably hers.
Something I long to do.
I do not have the body of work in my past that she has – but to see a mature woman create something so idiosyncratic, risk it all in the public view and then triumph on her own terms is a joy.