Why Did Kate Bush Stop Touring?

Kate Bush is a musician who changed the place of women in music. Whether you remember her wafting around in the “Wuthering Heights” video or covering The Rolling Stones in early pub gigs, she wasn’t at the mercy of corporate overlords or label whims. She represented a musician who was entirely in control of her creative destiny—and nothing represented this outlook more than her 1979 tour. A six-week trip around Britain and pieces of Europe, the series of shows was far more the Bush strumming the guitar center stage in front of a handful of diehard fans. The tour combined dance, music, burlesque, theatre for an all-round spectacle, and it pushes many people to the edge of excitement over what Bush would pull out the hat for her second tour.

However, that second tour never materialized. Bush never took to the stage again after her first set of live shows—despite her continuing popularity (she was the most photographed woman in Britain in 1978). She soon vanished from the stage and focused on her studio work instead. In the last week, whispers began to circulate that Bush would be taking her music on tour once again—whispers that were soon confirmed with the announcement of an upcoming fifteen-date tour. Her first in thirty-five years, old and new fans vied for one of the 77,000 tickets that sold out in fifteen minutes for the residency shows that will take place in August and September at the Hammersmith in London. But why did this performer—who managed to land a song based on a Gothic romance at number one for almost a full month—decide to retire from live shows? And why is she choosing to return now?

Naturally, many people have speculated over her reasons for retiring from life touring. Speaking to Radio 4’s Front Row in 2011, she gave her own reasons for never embarking on a follow-up tour; “I’d be absolutely petrified for a start…‘I do have the odd dream where I’m on stage and I’ve completely forgotten what I’m meant to be performing – so they are more nightmares than dreams”. However, fans and critics alike have guessed at darker reasons for her retirement.

During a warm-up concert in Poole, Dorset, in 1979, a member of her touring crew died after an accident related to Bush’ shows. Bill Duffield, who was 21 when the accident occurred on the 2nd of April, was a lighting manager working with Bush when he suffered a fall that led to his death.

Bush also cited the physical strain of touring as a problem when she first embarked on her tour—even at twenty years old, the full-on nature of her performances (which involved her swinging offstage in a kite costume at the climax of one of her numbers)—were draining for the hit musician. She’ll be fifty-six when she takes to the stage later this year, in a show that’s predicted to have “”a degree of theatre and drama to it”, according to Radio 2’s Mark Ratcliffe. There was also some implication that her fear of flying led to a reluctance to take her music overseas.

However, Bush has mostly cited her desire to spend time with her family as the reason for wanting to stay on the British isles (she’s been married to guitarist Dan MacIntosh for a number of years, and the couple have a son, Albert, together). Bush said “”At the moment my family life is incredibly important to me and it comes first. Then my work fits in around it which is quite easy to do with the recording process but something like doing shows would be incredibly disruptive and I just can’t see that would be something that would work at this stage.”

She’s released ten albums in her thirty-six year career (the most recent was the 2011 sleeper hit Fifty Words for Snow), but has only chosen to return to touring this year. The question many fans are confounded by is, why now?

For one, the name “tour” is a bit of a misnomer. She won’t actually be traveling round the country, but rather installed for several nights in London’s Hammersmith Palace. It’s also been speculated that her huge roster of unperformed album work has driven her to give her piano an airing once again, while several have quite fairly pointed out that her son is now an adult, she may not feel the need to stay home with him any more. And a broken link to a Channel Four news story (probably saving the money shot for a more profitable medium) suggested that Bush was “coming home” to the stage after a lengthy break. Whatever the reason, it’s good news for fans everywhere—assuming you scored a ticket.

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