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The Ninth Wave - Jennifer Kingwell in Kate Bush's Hounds of Love

Home > Melbourne > Festivals | Music | Performing Arts
by Meg Crawford (subscribe)
I'm a Melbourne based freelance journo. While I mostly concentrate on music, I'll write about anything else that grabs my fancy.
Jennifer Kingwell performs Kate Bush's finest album live
Jennifer Kingwell, Ninth Wave, Fringe Festival, Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
Jennifer Kingwell's Fringe Festival show - The Ninth Wave

In a neat bit of symmetry, Jennifer Kingwell's show The Ninth Wave, which is a live and spectacularly theatrical production of Kate Bush's stellar album The Hounds of Love, coincides with Bush's return to the stage for the first time in 35 years. Kingwell's acutely aware of the timely parallel.

"I had the idea to do the album and thought that it'd be great at Fringe," she reflects. "Then the news came out that Kate Bush was doing her shows in London and I thought 'that's weird, but that's perfect'. So I went ahead and registered and then I started hearing the rumours that she would be including The Ninth Wave song cycle as part of her live shows and that time I thought 'that's even weirder, I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing'. On reflection, I think it's actually turned out to be a good thing. It just points to the fact that this is an idea whose time has come – it's time to bring these songs to the stage, which was part of her original intention for the songs anyway."

Does the timing make it more daunting though? "Yes – absolutely," Kingwell chortles. "I'm doing my absolute best not to read any reviews of her shows or to follow any news, which has been really quite difficult. It has made it quite daunting; obviously there is no comparison though. I'm aware that maybe some people would be tempted to make that comparison, but really it's not even worth saying because there's absolutely no contest." Point taken, but Kingwell's hiding her light under a bushel because she sings like a goddamn angel and a comparison with Kate Bush is not out of the question.

Artists as diverse as Tupak, Johnny Rotten and Björk count Bush as an important influence. Unsurprisingly then, her return the stage has generated a lot of discussion. In an interesting observation, Tricky described her as being musically without a father and mother. Is he right? "In some ways yes," Kingwell says carefully. " I think it's because her influences often come from non-musical sources - she often quotes literary and visual arts and dance as primary sources of inspiration. I guess that with her music it's a translation from one artistic language to another and I think that comes across, which I think is why it's so hard to pinpoint sonically where she's come from."

It's also part of what makes Bush so darn fascinating and gives her enduring appeal. For instance, Hounds of Love has always had special place in Kingwell's heart. "For a long time it was the only Kate Bush album that I had," she reflects. "Even before I'd done the research about the Ninth Wave as the concept behind the B side of the album, it was an album that I kept coming back to during dark times and it was always a comfort."

Fuelled by an enduring affection for the album, Kingwell set herself the mammoth task of translating it into a show. Hounds of Love is a beautiful and intricately layered album and Kingwell's concept is to give the songs a reverential but not slavish treatment. Let's face it, if you were just going to rehash the album note for note, you may as well just stay home and give it a listen.

Jennifer Kingwell, Ninth Wave, Fringe Festival, Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
The Ninth Wave - the painting by Russian-Armenian artist Ian Aivazovsky, which inspired Kate Bush's album Hounds of Love

Kingwell's described it as a process of "reinventing" some of the tracks - not the world's easiest task. "Oh my God, it's been more difficult than I could have imagined," Kingwell laughs. "It has been a definite journey and an interesting learning curve for me and my band, who have been long suffering and patient throughout this process. I've done things to them like change the key of every song on the album; we've switched up the tempos; and, in some cases, we've stripped the songs back to the absolute core and had a look at what the vocal melody was doing and reinvented them from the inside out. Then there are a few that are more faithful to the album, because they're just so perfect as they are. After all, the reason I wanted to do the show was because I love the album so much."

The band of which Kingwell speaks is her own outfit The Garland Thugs. While she's reluctant to give away any spoilers, Kingwell divulges that she'll also be joined on-stage by some of Melbourne's finest including Plum Green, Mama Alto, Chelsea Wilson, Adam Rudegair and the balance of Lake Minnetonka. It's an amazing collection of collaborators. Were all of them Bush devotees before the project? "No," she guffaws. "They are more now than when we started though. We had 12 hours of rehearsal over the weekend and I've just been blown away by everyone's talent and enthusiasm for the project. This is the most ambitious project that I've ever embarked on and I literally and figuratively could not be doing it without the people I'm working with."
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*Meg Crawford was invited as a guest
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Why? Why even ask - who doesn't want to hear a song like Running Up That Hill live?
When: 10pm
Where: The Fringe Hub (Main theatre Lithuanian Club) - 44 Errol Street, North Melbourne, Vic
Cost: Full Price: $25.00 Concession: $20.00 Group: $15.00 (per person for 4)
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