Kate Bush: Before the Dawn review – a live and vital return

Fri, Nov 25, 2016, 07:22


Before the Dawn

Kate Bush



For those not lucky enough to see Kate Bush’s 22-date residency at London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014, these live recordings offer a glimpse into the reclusive musician’s startlingly ambitious comeback – most of which was based around selections from her back catalogue, albeit realised in a strikingly different manner.

Even without the visual component (puppets, dancers, illusionists, 3D animation, etc.), this three-act show – part-gig, part-theatre performance – is remarkable. Bush’s voice has lost neither its fiery vitality nor its capability for fragility, be it on the intoxicating throb of Running Up That Hill or on the dramatic flourishes of Top of the City, both taken from the tone-setting Act One.

Various tender slivers from the second half of 1985’s Hounds of Love album comprise Act 2 (aka The Ninth Wave)’s concept of Bush being lost at sea, with songs like Under Ice woven through a playful narrative written by author David Mitchell.

The spoken word intro of Waking the Watch evolves into a rocky, tumultuous affair, but it’s tempered by the reflective pop of Watching You Without Me and and the majestic choral sweep of Hello Earth.

Surprisingly, one of the highlights of the collection is new song Tawny Moon - a song sung by her son, Albert, who prompted her comeback and took part in the ensemble of backing vocals throughout the show. That song was taken from Act 3, based largely around the Sky of Honey song suite from 2005’s Aerial, as she observes the work of a painter from the 19th century, replete with birdsong and a significantly lusher, more pastoral palette to draw from.

At almost 154 minutes long, it’s neither for the casual fan nor the faint of heart – but it’s an immersive, rewarding experience for those with an appreciation for grand musical endeavours.