Kate hits spot - but not Heights
Kate Bush has made a sensational return to the concert stage - 35 years after her last, and only, tour.
At 56, she may no longer be able to hit the high notes of her teenage years and she might have cut back on the dancing, but she still has the trademark long dark hair, and she still knows how to put on a show.
Bush was kicking off her Before The Dawn "tour" - 22 shows at the Hammersmith Apollo in west London, the venue where she effectively retired from live performances after six weeks on the road in 1979.
More than 80,000 tickets for her comeback gigs sold out in less than 15 minutes after they were announced in March and there was huge excitement among fans in the run-up to the first night, which had been described "the musical event of the decade".
Tickets had been advertised for up to £1,000. As the show began, there was a massive roar from the crowd as Bush walked on stage, dressed in black and leading a procession of backing singers. She opened with Lily, then Hounds Of Love as she appeared to be putting on a conventional gig, singing in front of her seven-strong band.
But after she had sung her hit Running Up That Hill, from her 1985 Hounds Of Love album, a dancer came on stage, cannons fired smoke and confetti into the crowd and she moved into a dramatised version of the Ninth Wave suite of songs from the same album.
Actors dressed as fish, a helicopter rescue with searchlights on the audience, and a domestic scene involving toad in the hole followed in a typically Kate Bush spectacle. The second half continued in a similar vein as Bush performed the Sky Of Honey suite of songs from 2005 album Aerial.
The audience, including Lily Allen, Gemma Arterton and Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour, the man who spotted her talent as a teenager, loved every minute.
Bush still knows how to surprise and her encore consisted of a solo song at the grand piano, Among Angels from her 2011 album 50 Words For Snow, followed by crowd- pleaser Cloudbusting.
So there was nothing from her early albums - not even Wuthering Heights. Her fans did not seem to mind. Kyla Fox, 41, who had travelled from Newcastle, said: "We've just heard musical history. I dreamt of this but never thought I'd see it. This was on my bucket list."
Long-term fan Natalie Russell, 44, of Bishop Stortford, Herts, said: "She is fantastic ... the best gig I've ever been to. It's like a West End show. I've been waiting 35 years for this." She was with her sisters Kimberley Trim, 33, of south-east London, and Bernadette Russell, 46, of Deptford, London.
Bernadette said: "I spent my last money on tickets for this as I was unemployed at the time, but it was worth it. We've all been crying all the way through." Kimberley said: "I wish I was coming every night."
Michael Anmuth had come all the way from San Francisco specially for the show. Mr Anmuth, 46, said: "It's awesome - really, really great. It was worth travelling this far because I've waited forever to see her. It has cost me a lot but it's definitely worth it."
Bush had asked fans not to take photos or film during the shows - and, unusually, for a modern concert, they respected her wishes.
She had said: "We have purposefully chosen an intimate theatre setting rather than a large venue or stadium.
"It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the shows.
"I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras. I know it's a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together."
Bush, a doctor's daughter from Kent, was just 20 when she completed The Tour Of Life with three dates at what was then called the Hammersmith Odeon.
She had topped the charts with Wuthering Heights the previous year, becoming the first woman to go to number one singing one of her own songs.
Today it was revealed that her records are again climbing the charts.
Sales figures from the Official Charts Company showed that all nine studio albums and two compilations have been given a sales boost by the gigs.
Her greatest hits collection The Whole Story, which hit number one on its release in 1986, is currently number eight, followed by 1985's Hounds Of Love at Number 14.
Her 2011 collection 50 Words For Snow and her 1978 debut The Kick Inside are at 32 and 33 respectively and 1989's The Sensual World is at Number 41.
Further down the chart are The Red Shoes, Never For Eve, The Dreaming, Director's Cut, Lionheart and Aerial.
Bush, who introduced her teenage son Bertie as one of the performers, thanked the audience at the end.
"Thank you so much for such a wonderful, warm and positive response," she said.