REVIEW: KATE BUSH - BEFORE THE DAWN
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS!
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Wait a minute… Did that just happen?!
That is all I keep thinking to myself ever since I walked away from the Eventim Apollo last night, and after witnessing probably THE most anticipated, talked about, and fan demanded concert of the last decade.
Funny thing is, if anyone had said even six months ago that Kate Bush was going to do a month of live shows, they would have been slapped with a wet kipper for such a ludicrous and stupid prediction.
As we entered the Apollo, I was asked to present photo ID to prove that I was the ticket buyer to gain entry - be warned that they are indeed checking this! Luckily I had my passport in my bag, and we were ushered through the main doors. Once into the main lobby of the Eventim Hammersmith, the deathly weight of anticipation and disbelief was hanging heavy in the air as a sea of screaming people clawed their way to the front of the merchandise stalls, all grabbing at least one of every trinket available, just in case they never got the chance to get their hands on any official Kate clobber ever again.
Screams and cheers shook the room as Kate boldly marched out onto the stage, dressed all in black with her famous long locks falling about her waist and ‘Macho Man Randy Savage’ fringe waving from her jacket sleeves. She belted her way through hit after hit, laughing at her own dancing as she twirled and took in the crowd…and she fooled us all with it. This game…this ploy to make the audience truly believe that 35 years later, she was going to simply blast her way through her back catalogue and bust a few moves in her bare feet. And by the incredible sound and power of her voice that was tearing the roof off the building with Hounds of Love and Running Up That Hill, we would have been more than happy for her to do so.
Then, just as she reached the crescendo of King Of The Mountain, there was an almighty explosion, throwing darkness, dry ice and an avalanche of notes reading the rhyme of the Ninth Wave across the entire audience.
And so begins the REAL Kate Bush show…and anyone who likes the idea of a straightforward ‘hits in a microphone’ kind of gig is set to be left baffled from this point forward.
Great waves of water effects drown the stage as frozen rooms rise from the ground, and Kate along with her backing performers, skates across the stage, beginning the infamous Ninth Wave segment of her Hounds Of Love album; the story of a woman who falls through an icy ground and must take a treacherous journey to survive a frozen death out in the cold sea. As the story of the Ninth Wave is played out, we see floating houses pass the stage, helicopter spotlights over the audience, video footage of Kate clinging to life out in the open sea with nothing but a shining light and a life jacket, and gangs of skeletal fish people, all very reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen’s skeleton warriors in Jason and the Argonaughts.
The entire audience gasped in awe, straying somewhere between ‘jaws on the floor’ and ‘clutching pearls’ throughout the entire segment, and I chewed my fingers down to stubs. These were stage effects beyond any concert I had ever seen, and Kate not only took centre stage throughout like riding a wild bull, but sang every note of it live, loud, and as criminally outstanding as the album it was first recorded on.
After a 20 minute interval, just so we could recover from the sheer madness of act one, Kate returned to the stage with A Sky of Honey the second part of her 2005 album, Aerial. This was not - apart from to hardcore Kate Bush fans - the most well known segment musically, but just when you feel the effects of the first act couldn’t be topped, Kate sings to a curious little boy puppet made of wood, all controlled by a man dressed in back, and her son Bertie, who we learn is part of her backing vocalists throughout the entire show, also takes on the lyrics of the painters link. Bertie now has a brilliantly trained adult voice and handles his role in his mums show like a PRO. As Kate chirps, whistles and tweets an ACTUAL birdsong, I’m forced to hold my head, as I thought it was about to implode from equal amounts of disbelief, and utterly baffled joy.
As A Sky of Honey reaches its peak, the band, the backing singers and even Kate herself start grow wings and turn into giant birds…no, literally!
Kate ends the show, rising above the stage in enormous 20ft death-black feathered wings, bringing the audience to its knees with an unbelieved awe, and after an encore of Cloudbusting, she is gone.
The audience stayed clapping for ten minutes after she left the stage, whooping, cheering and screaming her name. but the legend that is Kate Bush was done here. She didn’t come back. She had created a religious experience out of a concert, and I am STILL in disbelief that It actually happened and wasn’t just some great ethereal dream.
Many artists can be compared to someone else. But there truly is only ONE Kate Bush.
I have no comparison for any piece of music or style she has. And my god, I am so glad to see her return. This was not a concert. This was an experience and an event I don’t think I, or anyone else who attends it, will ever forget.
Before The Dawn is at Hammersmith Apollo, London, until 1 October.
Words: Mikey Walsh @thatbloodymikey.
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