On Friday (29th September), we had the most tremendous and extraordinary engagement with Kate Bush. A delightful honour indeed.
In March, Kate announced the ‘Before The Dawn’ residency, which would see her play 22 shows before a total of more than 80,000 fans. Anticipation undoubtedly was enormously tangible, and the weight of the unknown was palpable – what does a Kate Bush concert look like, which songs from her ten studio albums would be included (setlist below), would she speak between songs (yes) and such like. This was most certainly evidenced upon arriving at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith, London and was heightened in the main due to the fact that Kate has not toured in 35 years and much of her catalogue of work remains unplayed in a live setting.
Rather than a conventional review, here’s some thoughts on the action and what struck us most as the evening unfolded. Even though it has been five days since – little details keeping popping up which is the sign of a deep, complex piece of work and the impact it was design to have.
* The concert began when Kate lead her troupe of backing singers onto stage – despite not yet having sung a note, simply being in the same room as her was majestic enough for the 4,000 strong crowd to rise to their feet as one, completed by whoops and hollers!
* Opening track ‘Lily’ was the perfect rousing track to kick off proceedings. The crashing guitars, intensified by the backing singers together with Kate’s impeccable vocal – deeper than expected but still crystal clear, commanding, sensuous, rich, full of life and character and in fact was the best live singing heard in many years.
* The initial flush of hits such as ‘Running Up That Hill ( A Deal With God)’, ‘Hounds Of Love’ and ‘King Of The Mountain’ were, naturally received enthusiastically and rapturously.
* The set list is as it was from the opening night and looks something like this…
Hounds Of Love
Top Of The City
Running Up That Hill ( A Deal With God) – 2012 Remix
King Of The Mountain
The Ninth Wave:
And Dream Of Sheep
Waking The Witch
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
The Morning Fog
A Sky Of Honey:
An Architect’s Dream
The Painter’s Link
Somewhere In Between
* The second act was centred upon the suite titled ‘The Ninth Wave’ which appears on Kate’s 1985 best selling number one opus ‘Hounds Of Love’. Thematically, the series of seven songs tell of a woman who is lost at sea when a ship sinks and the songs consider family life without her, the beauty within the world and the hope she feels to stay alive. The section was beautifully intense, using an array of props, video footage and theatrical stage trickery to create the allusion of the sea. Using silk, projections, lighting rigs and sound – it was extremely clever and well pieced together – shades of humour, heartbreak and loss interposed with hope and joy. It was a bold move to include this suite but it was brilliantly envisioned and triumphantly staged.
* The third act which followed an interval was a live imagining of the second disc of the ‘Aerial’ album. The suite titled ‘A Sky Of Honey’, where Kate explores the world as though a bird in the sky, the outdoors, daylight and sunset had many, optimistic, multidimensional, visceral and layered aspects. One of the most tender and simpler moments came when the dynamic band created a semi circle with Kate and simply played – it looked like a scene from the musical Once and it was such an uplifting and intimate conclusion of the particular song. The video projections and the special effects were spectacular during the entire act, simply, we’d seen nothing like it on this scale before.
* What was most unexpected and striking was Kate’s willingness by this we mean that she is an integral part of the action and the theatrical deliverings of the cast – for example, she was carried aloft, head high by the dancers, sported bird wings and hoisted into the air and moved as though a bird – these were things we hadn’t expected and as a result made the occasion so much more magical. Given that he has not performed in a concert setting for such a lengthy time, Kate didn’t appear phased or nervous – she looked relaxed and assured which was pleasing, she seemed happy to be performing and that in itself is a great gift to behold.
* Kate’s stage repertoire and freestyle movement was somewhat limited to a slow spinny, turny arm movement dance which sounds like a terrible description yet entirely accurate at the same time.
* The lavish sets, props, puppetry, visual iconography and lighting were absolutely incredible. Visually, we’d never seen anything like it – it was astonishingly captivating. The use of video screens was particularly clever, the lighting added dimensions to the narrative and the action on-stage. Props such as chiffon/silk were used to create the illusion of waves with remarkable accuracy. A silver birch crashed entirely through the piano in one example of trickery which was dramatic and forceful. There was a lighting rig mocked up to resemble a helicopter, the effect was realistic and believable. The sound was spectacular too – the surround sounds and noises from the speakers during the show was supreme. It was clear that much time, thought and creative efforts had been plunged into making the show.
* Kate is the optimal maverick and the creativity shows a fertile mind and deftly astute imagination. ‘Before The Dawn’ is a truly exquisite and compellingly unique experience – the drama and shades of light made for a fascinating and rewarding experience. ‘Before The Dawn’ is bold, bountiful and abundantly mesmerising, and is to be deemed yet another wholly original and resplendent accomplishment for the exquisite and masterful talents of Kate Bush. In short, an evening of joy and rapture.
The Telegraph is gleaned several nuggets of information from the souvenir tour programme – such as information relating to the creative process, venue choices and so on, which makes for interesting reading and can be accessed online here.