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Kate Bush – “Before the Dawn” Review

A lesson on how to make a magical live album
Kate Bush
Kate Bush

I wasn’t fortunate enough to get tickets for the 2014 live show that saw Kate Bush return to the stage for the first time in 30 years. The theatrical performance was equal parts music and clever staging and whilst I can absolutely understand why anyone would be slightly downcast that there’s not a video release of the concert alongside the audio version, the audio experience is still an amazing journey to behold.

Spread over 3 discs with a great 24 page booklet (which makes me yearn for a video even more!), the KT Fellowship as its known, is split into three distinct acts and nothing pre Hounds of Love is covered. I assume its because she’s played most of it before but it does feel The Dreaming got a bit short shift in the Bush timeline!

Act 1 is more of a greatest hits selection.  Kate’s voice has naturally deepened slightly over the years but she is poised and assured in her delivery and her voice is still strong and able deliver a wide palette of emotion. “Lily” and the one time rehearsal performance of “Never Be Mine” really showcase The Sensual World album to perfection with lush sensuality. Big hitters “Running Up That Hill” and “Hounds of Love” come alive with dynamic and layered performances and “Top of the City” sounds reinvigorated with new instrumentation. A stadium extended dramatic version of “King of the Mountain” makes me think of Prince in the way how he too went for huge outros to tracks and when the wind blows into a big storm of rain and drama Act 1 closes.

Act 2 is really where the conceptual side of things take centre stage as Kate performs the whole of her The Ninth Wave suite as part of an extended play. Between tracks there’s minor narration which details a survivor bobbing around in the water clinging for survival. It’s a wonderful story of rebirth and renewal and Kate excels herself with some artistic soundscaping. “And Dream of Sheep” is recorded submerged in water and is extra weary and emotive, whilst “Waking the Witch” sounds really different with more of a heavier rock vibe and is extended to include all kinds of wonderful vocal battles between survival and the underworld. As each songs translated into a band arrangement, along with plenty of backing vocals “Hello Earth” feels absolutely monumental in its scope and impact. Similarly “The Morning Fog” feels even more free and easy with its encore like a hug on arrival.

Act 3 pulls together Aerial and “The Sky of Honey” set, essentially the second disc of the album. Here most tracks are extended for showmanship. “Prelude” now has a huge finale attached to it instead of it being an awakening piece. “Sunset” has Kate full on Spanish for a wonderful extension to that track making it even more of a party atmosphere. However this is an extended version of the tracks as her son Albert MacIntosh sings a new track called “Tawny Moon”. It fits in the vibe and theme of the selection beautifully and it breaks things up in an interesting way as there’s a lot of duet vocals throughout act 3 from Albert as if both day and night are singing the day together. “Nocturn” feels a little more jazzy and gospel like whilst “Aerial” turns up all the guitars and Kate’s shouting growls to the max for a hedonistic finale. A lovely rendition of “Among Angels” see’s just Kate and a piano for a quiet moment of introspection before the whole thing closes off with a euphoric rendition of “Cloudbusting”.

As a live album, it is impeccably mixed and arranged – it’s full of layers and things to discover. I feel like I’ve been part of something and the three distinct acts really makes it like you’ve been on tour with her too. A fine addition to any fans collection but also as an fine example of music as a story telling medium. I can hope for a DVD but I’m more than satisfied with this amazing audio story.

Recommended Track : Hello Earth

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