It’s a steep musical hill to be running up, but tributes to Kate Bush might shatter any fake expectations, writes Simon Hacker.
I have a Kate Bush thing. I’ll confess that now because any respectable gig review should probably not have some hopeless fan frothing on. I’d be a liar if I didn’t forewarn you, I’m an album’s thickness from a full-on attic shrine.
Having straddled and transcended the genre, Kate Bush isn’t pop by any of the limitation that little word implies. If you’ve somehow not managed to unlock her world (which is unlikely, surely, given the huge airing of her 1985 hit Running Up That Hill on supernatural Netflix drama Stranger Things), I’d suggest The Kick Inside as a first step. This flawless 1978 debut album features many songs Bush wrote aged just 13 and is a soundscape that can lead to places I’ve yet to sense through the work of any artist in her wake. Her influence is manifold, spawning direct and subtle influence through such artists as Goldfrapp, Florence and the Machine and Radiohead. At 64, she’s no longer an artist, she’s her own genre.
The only problem though, as all Bushophiles know, is that the drumbeat of her creative output has increasingly lengthened with the years. Today, you’re better off waiting for a new pope than a Kate Bush album. Tougher still, a chance to see her live is up there with hitching a ride through Brexit’s sunny uplands on Shergar.
All of which makes the arrival of not just one but two opportunities to immerse in her music, in live performances right here in Gloucestershire, an inarguably exciting thing. One of these, I’m afraid, you just missed: on Saturday January 28th, Kate appeared with her band to a sell-out audience in Wotton-under-Edge’s Under the Edge Arts centre. But fear not, she will also be at Stroud’s Subscription Rooms on February 11th.
Full disclosure necessitates a T&C that neither the Wotton Kate Bush or the forthcoming Stroud one are the same embodiment, while both, if you follow, aren’t Kate herself. Yes, these are tribute bands: Lisa-Marie Walters and her band, Moments of Pleasure, being the focus here, while Mandy Watson and her band, Cloudbusting – The Music of Kate Bush limber up for the Sub Rooms (see below for more information).
Maybe the simplest way to review Walters and her band’s tribute is to point out what it isn’t. At the risk of offending Elvis fans, the King inadvertently spawned a legacy that did much to trash the art of emulation. Into the post-Elvis void has swayed an endless gyrating line of have-a-go hip shakers, mostly men who believe serving up a night’s live sonic satisfaction demands no more than a comedy wig, DVT-inducing trousers and a curled lip. Collectively, they’ve slurred through this artist’s hitlist to the extent that all post-boomer generations probably believe the man who weaponised rock ’n roll was probably a Disney character.
But what of Walters-Bush? Again, I must add I’ve avoided pastiche-mongers wherever possible, making it a rule not to spend money on counterfeit croonery. But both Moments of Pleasure and Cloudbusting operate a million miles above that level of organised sound. Neither (having watched Mandy Wilson in advance) performs from some join-the-dots cranked-out karaoke you might witness on a Tuesday night down your local. No, they are polished, they’re credible and they will take you, a-shivering and a-wuthering, to heights of delight. In fact, watching how Walters held a packed room of 150 in wide-eyed awe, she and her band are stepping into the, er, Bush vacuum and filling it with faithful and compelling renditions of songs which take you from dark to blinding; by the end of the show, we weren’t watching Walters; she and the band were channelling the real deal.
So, the question is how they do this. Is it down to vocal accuracy in terms of pin-point replication? Well obviously, that helps, but Walters, with the brilliant support of her band, delivers something far more subtle and soul-sustaining, introducing discrete yet believable interpretation of Bush’s canon of work, bringing it to life before the audience with a true sense that these songs and lyrics are here and now, not echoed from somewhere else.
I’m changing my stock response to the prospect of a tribute night out. Choose the right act and you don’t need to squint, or perform the equivalent action with your ears, to experience the thrill of a favourite artist. And who to choose? Apparently, there are about 170 top-line tribute bands out there on a stage near you in Britain, offering such puntastic delights as Proxy Music, Blobbie Williams, Fake That and the Faux Fighters.
I have no doubt quite a few of these may well not outweigh Saturday night TV. But if Lisa-Marie or Mandy came scraping their fingernails at my window any time soon, I’m more than happy to let them in.
For more information: to book the Cloudbusting gig on February 11th, go to thesubrooms.co.uk. For more on events at Under the Edge Arts, visit utea.org.uk. Moments of Pleasure – the Music of Kate Bush is at momentsofpleasure.co.uk and Cloudbusting – The Music of Kate Bush at katebushtribute.com.