By Paul Sandle
LONDON (Reuters) - Kate Bush mixed note-perfect renditions of her biggest hits with two visually stunning interpretations of her longer conceptual works on Tuesday to delight fans who had waited 35 years for the British singer and songwriter to return to the stage.
Receiving a standing ovation before she had sung a note, Bush opened with "Lily" from her 1993 release "The Red Shoes", followed by "Hounds of Love" from the double-platinum selling album of the same name.
She singled out her teenage son Bertie, who sang and acted in the show, for giving her the confidence to perform. "The adventure's only just begun," she told him onstage.
For the 22 shows dubbed "Before the Dawn," Bush has returned to London's Hammersmith Apollo, a venue in her only previous tour in 1979, a year after she went to No.1 with the self-penned "Wuthering Heights."
That song, based on the Emily Bronte novel, stood out in a pop scene filled with disco and punk, and the 19-year-old Bush's high-pitched voice and expressive dancing only added to her uniqueness.
Bush has released nine studio albums, two of which topped the charts. Her singles collection "The Whole Story" also went to No.1.
But she has largely stayed out of the public eye, giving few interviews and leaving long gaps between releases.
In the process she has become one of the most celebrated of Britain's anti-celebrities, generating a devoted following from fans who were ecstatic when she announced the shows in March.
Teacher Vicki Skehan from Brisbane, Australia, said she had spent about 10,000 pounds ($16,500) on a business-class plane fare to London, accommodation and tickets for two performances.
"So far, so good," she said during the interval of the show, adding that Bush's voice was "still fantastic, and if anything sounds better, with more depth."
The show shifted gears midway through the first half with the song cycle "The Ninth Wave," which is about a woman floating in the sea, slipping in and out of consciousness.
The eclectic range of musical styles in the piece, ranging from an Irish jig to a chorale, was mirrored in a staging that combined film with theater.
Fans were too engrossed in the narrative to even think about whipping out their smartphones to take pictures, something that Bush had requested they refrain from doing.
"I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras," she said on her website.
"I know it's a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together."
Bush finished the concert with "Cloudbusting," also taken from "Hounds of Love," receiving a final standing ovation after being on stage for nearly three hours.
"Thank you very much for such a warm and positive response," she said, seriously underestimating the euphoria she had created amongst her faithful supporters.
(This story has been refiled to add missing letter in first paragraph)
(Editing by Lisa Shumaker)