Touring isn’t for every artist or band. Some like Free, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath loved touring, and spent much of their career on tour. Kate Bush never enjoyed touring. So much so, that for thirty-five years, Kate Bush never took to the stage. She toured once in 1979. After that tour, Kate Bush’s fans had to be patient.

It was thirty-five years before Kate Bush made her return to the stage. The announcement came on Friday 21st March 2014,  via Kate Bush’s website. She was going to return to the stage on the 26th of August 2014. This was the first of fifteen concerts she would play at the Hammersmith Apollo, in London. Soon, Kate Bush’s return to the stage was one of the biggest news stories.  Even Kate Bush was unprepared for the response to this announcement.

Tickets were due to go on sale on Wednesday 26th March 2014. Before that, Kate Bush fans had to register their interest. Kate Bush fans from all over the world were registering for tickets to the Before The Dawn tour. They wanted to make a pilgrimage to London to see Kate Bush live. However, demand was outstripping demand many times over.

So many people had signed up to Kate Bush’s website expressing an interest in tickets, that another seven dates were added. Now Kate Bush was now going to play twenty-two dates between the 26th of August and the 1st of October 2014. When the tickets went on sale, they were probably the most prized ticked since Led Zeppelin made their long-awaited comeback.

The first lot of tickets went on sale via Kate Bush’s website on 26th March 2014. They soon sold out. Two days later, on Friday 28th of March 2014, the tickets were made available to members of the public. At 9:30 a.m tickets for the twenty-two concerts went on sale. By 9:45 a.m, the tickets had sold out. Kate Bush’s return to the stage was the hottest ticket of 2014.

Those that had been lucky enough to secure tickets to the Before The Dawn concerts had no idea of what was in store. This was no ordinary concert. Instead, Kate Bush had planned and would present a lavish multi-media event.

While Kate Bush was the star of the twenty-two shows, concertgoers would be treated to a myriad of supporting acts. This included dancers, puppets, 3D animation and an illusionist. There was also mask-work, shadows and conceptual staging. Before The Dawn was a truly ambitious project which was a mixture of music and theatre. Kate Bush went to great lengths to ensure her live comeback was a success.

She was even willing to spend three days in a floatation tank for part of the Before The Dawn show. This was part of scenes that were filmed and played during Before The Dawn. The dialogue that accompanied these scenes was written by English novelist David Mitchell. He was one of a huge cast that played their part in the staging of Before The Dawn.

This included Adrian Noble, the former artist director and chief executive officer of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was drafted in to direct Before The Dawn with Kate Bush. They brought onboard top designers to design everything from the sets and costumes that would be used during Before The Dawn’s twenty-two night run.

Among the specialists brought onboard, were award winning lighting designer Mark Henderson. He was joined by set designer Dick Bird, costume designer Brigitta Reiggenstuel and creative consultant Robert Allsopp. They were part of a vast staff. It also included ‘creative director’ Albert McIntosh. This was Kate Bush’s son, whose other roles included backing vocalist and keyboardist. However, before Before The Dawn made its debut, a cast of actors, dancers and musicians were put through their paces.

Gradually, the sets, lighting and costumes came together. Meanwhile, a cast of actors, puppeteers and the chorus were practising for the Before The Dawn concerts.

This included Kate Bush and her band. They had to be perfect before the first night on 26th of August 2014. However, it had been thirty-five years since Kate Bush played live. It had been a while since Kate Bush had even released a new album.

Three years had passed since the release of her previous album 50 Words for Snow in November 2011. It was very different to the early part of Kate Bush’s career. 

During the early part of her career, Kate Bush averaged an album a year. Her debut album The Kick Inside was released in February 1978. Lionheart followed in November 1978, with Never For Ever following in September 1980. Nearly two years later, and Kate Bush returned with The Dreaming in September 1982. After the gaps lengthened between albums.

Three years later, Kate Bush returned with Hounds Of Love in September 1985. However, three years became four and when The Sensual World was released in October 1989. After another four years, Kate Bush returned with her seventh studio album, The Red Shoes. Although it wasn’t as successful as previous albums, nobody expected what happened next.

Twelve long years passed before Kate Bush returned with a new album, Aerial. It was released to critical acclaim in November 2005 and matched the success of The Sensual World. Despite this, it was another six years before Kate Bush returned.

She had been busy, and would release two albums in the space of six months. Director’s Cut was released in May 2011, with 50 Words For Snow following in November 2011. Neither album matched the success of previous albums. Both were certified gold in the UK. That was as good as it got. Kate Bush had released the two least successful albums of her career. 

Despite this, just three years later and Kate Bush was working towards her live comeback. Given how quickly the tickets had sold, Kate Bush was still hugely popular and a had vast fan-base. Many were about to travel halfway around the world to see Kate Bush make her long-awaited live comeback. She was determined that she would be ready.

Kate Bush had put together a vastly experienced and talented band. Its rhythm section featured drummer Omar Hakim, bassist and double bassist John Giblin and guitarist David Rhodes. They were augmented by percussionist Mino Cinelu;

Friðrik Karlsson who played guitar, bouzouki and charango. Jon Carin, who previously, had worked with Pink Floyd and more recently, Dave Gilmour, played guitar, keyboards and took charge of programming. The final member of Kate Bush’s band was Kevin McAlea. He was the only member of the band that had played on Kate Bush’s 1979 tour. This time around, he would play keyboards, accordion and uilleann pipes. With the lineup in place, Kate Bush who occasionally played piano and keyboards, had been practising what was a vast setlist.

Unlike many artists making a comeback after a lengthy absence, Kate Bush wasn’t about to do setlist that featured her greatest hits. Instead, it was a twenty-nine song set that featured three acts. Act one featured seven miscellaneous songs, including Hounds Of Love, Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) and King Of The Mountain. The second act featured the complete Ninth Wave suite which originally, featured on side two of the Hounds of Love album. Then the third act featured  A Sky of Honey from Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial. With twenty-nine tracks to learn, this was a steep learning curve for the band.

Especially, when they were going to be joined by a vast cast of actors, puppeteers, a chorus and an illusionist. There were also everyone involved in putting the production on. Sound, stage and lighting techs, were joined sound and systems engineers. Some nights by a film crew and recording crew arrived. Before The Dawn was to be filmed on 16-17th September 2014, and 

recorded over several nights. Kate Bush planning to release Before The Dawn via her Fish People label. They eventually released Before The Dawn in late 2016, as a three CD set. By then, one of the most ambitious concerts in recent years had been staged.

After weeks and months of planning, preparation and practice, the 26th of August 2014 came round. This was the first night of the Before The Dawn tour. Kate Bush was about to return to the stage after a thirty-five year absence. Despite this absence, Kate Bush was one of the most successful singer-songwriters of her generation. She had released ten studio albums, that had sold in vast quantities. They had been certified silver, gold, platinum and double platinum everywhere from American and Canada to Britain, France, Germany and Holland. Kate Bush had enjoyed a glittering career, and on the 26th of August 2014 made her way onstage to reconnect with her fans after a thirty-five year absence.

It was a triumphant return, with critics and cultural commentators hailing Kate Bush as the comeback Queen. Her lavish multimedia stage-show was a mixture of music and theatre. The audience were spellbound as Kate Bush and her band were joined by a vast cast. This included everything from actors and puppets to an illusionist and a chorus. Sometimes, excerpts of film played, during what was hailed as one of the most ambitious concerts to take to the stage at the Hammersmith Apollo Playing a starring role during the Before The Dawn concerts were Kate Bush and her band.

Over the next twenty-two nights, a number of the Before The Dawn concerts were recorded. Kate Bush was planning to release a live album. Rather than release a recording of one night’s show, a decision was made to cherry pick the best recordings. They would replicate the three acts of the Before The Dawn show.

Act One.

Opening Act One of Before The Dawn, is Lilly a track from Kate Bush’s 1993 album The Red Shoes. As the song unfolds, it’s a mixture of music and theatre, and sets the scene for the rest of Act One.

This includes one of Kate Bush’s best known songs Hounds Of Love. It gives way to Joanni from Aerial and Top Of The City from The Red Shoes. Neither may seem like the most obvious choices, but ensure the set flows and continues to captivate. Soon, though, Kate Bush returns to This Sensual World for the beautiful ballad Never Be Mine and Hounds Of Love Running Up That Hill. It’s one of the highlights of Act One. However, closing Act One is King Of The Mountain from Aerial. There’s an element of drama and theatre as the song builds, and Act One draws to a close.

Ace Two.

Act two featured the complete Ninth Wave suite which originally, featured on side two of the Hounds of Love album. However, a spoken monologue opens act two. It’s followed by And Dream Of Sheep, which gives way to the cinematic Under Ice and Waking The Witch which features one of the best performances by the band. They put their countless years of experience to good use as Kate Bush adds to the drama. Still, though, there’s a slightly dated sound to the track. 

Watching You Without Me which is two minutes of dialogue. While this is an important part of the Ninth Wave suite, it seems out of place on a live album. Many listeners will reach for the remote control. 

Normal service is resumed on the Celtic sounding Jig Of Life and Hello Earth where the chorus play an important part in the sound and success of the track. Closing act two is the understated ballad The Morning Fog. It’s one of highlights of Ninth Wave suite. Maybe though, it would’ve been better for Kate Bush and her band to play  a selection of the highlights from the Ninth Wave suite? 

Act Three.

Act three features A Sky of Honey, which is taken from Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial. It opens with prelude and then a ten minute prologue. Just like An Architect’s Dreams and The Painter’s Link, it has an understated sound. It’s a similar case on Sunset, where the understated arrangement allows Kate Bush’s vocal to take centre-stage. The underrated sound continues on Aerial Tal. However, very different is Kate’s vocal. She scats and ab-libs against a recording of birdsong. 

 Somewhere In Between is a quite beautiful ballad, is without doubt, one of the highlights of act three. It’s followed by Tawny Moon, the ethereal Nocturn and Aerial, the final part of A Sky of Honey. It’s where the drama comes to a head and the band then unleash one of their best performances on this ten minute epic. However, that is not the end of Before The Dawn.

Kate Bush dips into 50 Words For Snow for what’s one of its finest moments, Among Angels. It’s a truly beautiful and understated piano lead band. Closing act three and Before The Dawn is Cloudbusting, from Hounds Of Love. It seems that Kate Bush has kept one of the best until last. After that, she takes her bow. Hopefully, it won’t be another thirty-five years until Kate Bush returns.

When Before The Dawn was released late in 2016, it was to critical acclaim. Just like the twenty-two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo, Kate Bush had won over the critics again. Alas, Before The Dawn wasn’t the commercial success that many critics forecast.

Before The Dawn was most successful in Britain, where it reached number four and was certified silver. Across the Atlantic, Before The Dawn reached eighty-nine in Canada and 121 in the US Billboard 200. In Australia, Before The Dawn reached twenty-eight and four in New Zealand. Meanwhile, in Europe, where Kate Bush had always been popular, Before The Dawn reached number nine in France, eleven in Germany, twenty-two in Holland, ten in Norway and forty-eight in Sweden. Despite the success of the twenty-two Before The Dawn concerts, the live album wasn’t the success many had forecast.

Before The Dawn was an extremely ambitious project. It was a mixture of music and theatre where Kate Bush and a vast cast work their way through a twenty-nine song set that featured three acts. 

Act one featured seven miscellaneous songs, including Hounds Of Love, Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) and King Of The Mountain. This was a taste of a reminder of what Kate Bush was capable of.

The second act featured the complete Ninth Wave suite which originally, featured on side two of the Hounds of Love album. Mostly, this works. However, parts of the Ninth Wave suite sound dated. There’s that eighties sound that hasn’t aged well. Similarly, the dialogue doesn’t work as part of a live album. It’s the weakest part of the Ninth Wave suite, coming across as sounding slightly pretentious. It would’ve been better if Kate Bush had played only the highlights of the Ninth Wave suite. This would’ve left time for some of her other, better known songs.

Having said that, the third act features another suite of songs. This time, it’s A Sky of Honey from Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial. It works better than the Ninth Wave suite.  Whereas the Ninth Wave suite fails to flow, A Sky of Honey which features several understated songs features Kate Bush at her best. Her ethereal, elegiac vocals find Kate Bush rolling back the years to her glory years. 

When she made her live comeback in 2014, Kate Bush was still one of the most talented singer-songwriters of her generation. Proof of that are the ten studio albums she released between 1978 and 2011. Since then, Kate Bush hasn’t released another studio album. 

That isn’t unusual. Recently, it’s been a case of feast or famine during Kate Bush’s recording career. In 2011, she released two albums two albums in the space of six months. Director’s Cut was released in May with 50 Words For Snow following in November 2011. These were the first albums Kate Bush had released since Aerial in 2005. Kate Bush works at her own speed  and releases albums when she wants. It’s a similar case with touring.

Before the Before The Dawn concerts, Kate Bush hadn’t toured since 1979. Thirty-five years later, Kate Bush made her live comeback on over twenty-two nights at Hammersmith Apollo. Rather than embark upon a tour of Britain, the audience headed to London to hear the comeback Queen. Her comeback is documented and celebrated over the three discs on Before The Dawn. 

Mostly, it finds Kate Bush rolling back the years. A few of the tracks on the Ninth Wave suite fail to work and disappoint. Many people would’ve preferred to heard some of the songs that launched Kate Bush’s career. Sadly, songs like Wuthering Heights, Army Dreamers, Wow and Babooshka are omitted. However, the most disappointing aspect of Before The Dawn is the sound quality. 

For much of Before The Dawn, the sound  quality is poor.  Sometimes, it’s thick, muddy and boomy. There’s also a lack of dynamic range on a number of tracks. Other times, the sound quality improves slightly. However, overall, Before The Dawn is a disappointing musical document of Kate Bush’s comeback concerts. Before The Dawn should’ve been a celebration of comeback queen Kate Bush returning to the stage after a thirty-five absence. Instead, it’s a disappointing recording. Kate Bush’s loyal fans deserved better than Before The Dawn. 




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