It is a brave artist – or group of artists in this case – who dares to touch the unique catalogue of Kate Bush, one of the most fearsome stylists of the pop age, but also one shrouded in mystique and possibilities, thanks to her exceptionally low live profile, amounting to just one tour and one theatre residency in almost 40 years.
Emma Pollock, the gifted musician behind this celebration concert (don’t call it a tribute), originally commissioned by and performed at Aberdeen’s True North festival last autumn, was mindful of the pitfalls but assembled a formidable line-up of guest singers from the folk and indie worlds to interpret favourite songs from the esteemed length and bonkers breadth of her catalogue, many of which Bush has never performed live herself.
Running Up That Hill: A Celebration of Kate Bush *****
The life-affirming results sprang from a mix of astute curation, meticulous arrangement, staying as true to Bush’s recorded originals as possible, and natural love and affinity for Bush’s music from all performers, including a heroic house band who aced the oddest sound effects.
Pollock herself opened the evening’s revels with a luminous Man With The Child In His Eyes, accompanied by a stellar string quartet whose sumptuous arrangements also enhanced the sensitivity and power of Kathryn Joseph’s rendition of Moments of Pleasure. Brothers Peter and David Brewis, collectively known as Field Music, captured the hectic jabber of Sat In Your Lap, showcasing as it does Bush’s signature blend of tribal rhythms and declamatory backing vocals.
Across an evening of consistently brilliant and beautiful vocals from the likes of Rachel Sermanni and Kathryn Williams, David Brewis’s fluent tenor on Babushka and especially Rubberband Girl stood out. But this was a team effort and a triumph of dynamism, flowing freely from Bush’s most intimate to her most demented compositions, from quirky album tracks to her biggest anthems.
It was strangely appropriate that Running Up That Hill, a song about gender reversal, should be sung by a man, Twilight Sad frontman James Graham, with backing chorus of doom supplied by Pollock, Joseph and Karine Polwart. Polwart also fronted an epic, proggy King of the Mountain and helmed the highlight of the night, an apocalyptic Breathing, delivered as a personal response to having grown up in the shadow of Grangemouth Refinery, before this worthy celebration climaxed with a massed, cathartic Wuthering Heights and emotional cartwheels all round.