Gwdihw, Cardiff, Tue 2 Oct
The product of unfettered imagination and uncompromising vision, Kate Bush’s otherworldly prog pop was out of sync with everything else around it from the very outset: post-punk, new wave, the New Romantic movement. Despite or perhaps because of that fact, her distinctive influence can now be heard (and seen) everywhere.
Without a doubt, then, she deserves to be honoured – but how, exactly, does one person go about paying respectful tribute to a solo artist who has adopted so many different personas? With extreme difficulty – which is probably why Baby Bushka comprise no fewer than eight members, each taking a turn to sing. And boy do they do justice to one of English pop’s most unique and eccentric voices.
It can’t be denied that Bush sets herself up as a prime target for parody (see, for instance, the medley performed by Alan Partridge at the end of the The Man Who Thinks He’s It live show), but she clearly lives by the dictum that ridicule is nothing to be scared of; on the contrary, it’s something to be actively courted and then faced down. The margins are fine, but Baby Bushka successfully steer a course between smirking pisstake on the one hand and po-faced interpretation on the other. They recognise the underlying gravitas of some songs but also the pantomimic excess of others, and understand the need to commit to them all with equal zeal.
The whole project might smack of a drunken idea made flesh, but the opening sequence – Wow, Running Up That Hill and Babooshka – immediately reassures us that we’re in the company of superb musicians; after all, these songs are far from easy to realise live. But Baby Bushka also appreciate the importance of the visual and theatrical aspect of Bush’s work – hence the carefully choreographed moves, costumes and dramatic tableaux that accompany some songs (most notably Houdini).
In among the hits, there are deeper cuts such as Suspended In Gaffa and Ran Tan Waltz to reward diehard fans, while Army Dreamers and Pull Out The Pin – performed wearing military shirts and clutching cardboard guns – prove unexpectedly poignant. Along the way, we learn that the San Diego-based band have only been going for a year; that they’ve had to crowdfund to pay for the trip, their first UK tour; that this is the smallest stage they’ve ever shared; and that Natasha Kozaily aka Boss Bush (the one true lookalike in the outfit) is delighted to be back on familiar turf, having studied at university here eight years ago.
Inevitably, Wuthering Heights garners the most enthusiastic crowd response, but it’s Cloudbusting that ends the night, all eight gathering at the front of the stage to sing a cappella. “I know that something good is gonna happen”? It just did.
words BEN WOOLHEAD