In Depth

Kate Bush makes triumphant return after 35 years

First reviews of singer-songwriter Kate Bush's 22-night Hammersmith Apollo residency

Kate Bush

After 35 years without a public performance, singer-songwriter Kate Bush last night made her return to the stage – and critics are universally delighted, calling the show "triumphant" and her singing "flawless".

The tens of thousands of tickets for Bush's 22-night residency at the Hammersmith Apollo – the stage where she last gigged, in 1979 – had sold out within five minutes. Fans came from all over the world and the opening night audience was peppered with celebrities including Dave Gilmour, Gemma Arterton, Lily Allen and Marc Almond.

Rumours that David Bowie was in the audience – and might even join Bush on stage – turned out to be false.

The show was divided into three parts: a straight performance of several mid-1980s hits with a seven-piece band and five backing singers, a wildly eccentric staging of Bush's song cycle The Ninth Wave using video, costumes, puppetry and pyrotechnics – and a final section where she played all of another song cycle, 2005's A Sky of Honey, also with elaborate staging.

For The Guardian, Alexis Petridis gives Bush five stars out of five and says her "note-perfect" performance showcased an "incredible" voice in "remarkable condition". Bush played nothing from her first four albums – a sign of confidence from a "hugely engaging live performer".

As for the staging, it may "look excessive on paper" but it works "to astonishing effect, bolstering rather than overwhelming" the songs, Petridis concludes.

The audience were so enthusiastic, says Petridis, that they clapped everything Bush did, no matter how insignificant. "It would be cloying," he adds, "but for the fact that Bush genuinely gives them something to cheer about."

Audience member and BBC DJ Lauren Laverne tweets that the show was "intimate, adventurous, avant-garde but entirely unpretentious, so clever but so warm and inclusive" – and adds that she "CRIED FIVE TIMES" - in capitals, no less.

The Daily Telegraph gives a "still wondrous, rich and powerful" Bush four stars whileThe Times awards her five out of five and says the show is a "dreamlike extension of the imagination". Five stars again from The Independent, which finds Bush "mesmerising".

The view from abroad is similarly positive: the show was "triumphant, hit-filled and characteristically theatrical" says the US's Billboard magazine, with Bush displaying "none of the nerves or apprehension you would expect of someone who hadn't performed live in over three decades".

It has been said that nerves have kept Bush from performing, and the New York Times quotes from her notes in the concert programme, where she writes she was "very frightened to commit" and is sure she "would have backed out" without the "encouragement and enthusiasm" of her 16-year-old son, Bertie McIntosh (Bush was 16 herself when she signed to EMI in 1974).

As well as being credited as a "creative advisor", McIntosh was one of Bush's five backing singers last night, and during the last long and characteristically odd section appeared as a 19th-century artist painting a canvas and telling a wooden puppet to "piss off".

At the end, says the New York Times, the audience – which had been "still as stones" during the performance and had almost completely respected Bush's request not to film with their phones (with at least one exception) – roared its applause and "would not leave until the tech crew arrived to dismantle the stage".

"Thank you so much for such a wonderful, warm and positive response," said Bush – with another 21 nights ahead of her.

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