Kate Bush
Before The Dawn Tour

September 3, 2014
Hammersmith Eventim Apollo, London (UK)

Trying to write a concert review about a Kate Bush concert with three 'totally objective' guys breathing down your neck, with their fingers hovering over the delete button in case you'd dare to write even a hint of criticism, isn't very easy. These three men turned from a comfortable age in their forties into teenagers with a crush again the instant we entered the waiting line to the concert venue. That feeling was omnipresent; the buzz was exhilarating, everyone seemed happy and expectations ran high for all the things to come. I saw only one or two young faces this evening; everyone else was around our own age group and probably also seeing 35-years of prayers to see her perform live finally being answered tonight. The music softly floating through the concert hall was by Eberhard Weber, her bass player on several albums.

The opening song Lily started off with a long instrumental intro to get the audience going - as if they needed any encouragement - and then La Bush entered the stage barefooted and clad in black, flowing clothes, not exactly dancing, but certainly moving rhythmically and gracefully, with her five-piece strong backing choir in tow. For a full ten to fifteen seconds there was no more music to be heard, because the audience almost tore down the roof (again) with their roars. Good thing the refurbishment of the hall had recently been finished. Second song Hounds Of Love got the audience roaring again. It had the best dog-vocals I've ever heard. In the first four songs, the intros simply had to be stretched out, because the audience was so loud in their appreciation, that the band had to wait for them to settle down a bit before Kate could start singing. Top Of The City had a refreshing new addition in the middle of the song consisting of a close-harmony section that's not to be found on the album. All songs in this set that were very familiar yet had a new and fresh approach, which made them sound as if they were written only recently. The band was in excellent shape and was clearly enjoying playing for this audience. Especially percussionist Mino Cinelu stood out as he had a winning smile on his face and was dancing and partying behind his set. I could have watched him all night. There were neither theatrics nor intricate set decorations in this set, proving that Miss Bush was more than able to captivate her audience purely with her presence and by her excellent musicianship. Her voice was in great shape!

An intro-video was played depicting an astronomer - excellently played by Kevin Doyle - calling the Coast Guard after picking up a faint distress signal from a woman at sea sending out an SOS, because her ship was sinking. She ended up lying in the water in the middle of
a freezing night. After this video, the show unfortunately came to an abrupt halt, because there were technical difficulties and technicians were frantically working to solve them. The whole show was connected by digital screening and sequence use, so I suspected a computer might have to be rebooted. It had probably become a bit static; those who've seen the show will know what I'm talking about. It turned into a half hour break, but the audience took it all in their stride and not a negative sound was uttered; they were way too happy just to be there.

The show resumed, again under an enormous applause, and The Ninth Wave was on its way. This time the theatrics really set in. An intricate set had been built, complete with a moving house, a massive buoy, chainsaws, axes and sea-creatures with fabulous fish-bone costumes and masks: The Lords Of The Waves. The whole stage looked as if it was set within the carcass of a decayed shipwreck, with only the ribs of the body still visible. Kate sang along with the pre-recorded video images of her in a tank with cold water, depicting the main character floating in the sea. By making the concept album this visible, it became even more obtrusive and certainly deeply emotional. I had to fight back tears more than once. Miss Bush showed details of the lyrics I had not interpreted that way before, and some things that remained a little vague up to now became more than clear as to their meaning.

Hound Of Love
(Hound Of Love / The Ninth Wave)
The backing vocalists played various roles from this set on a well as joining in the dancelike movements along with several movers/dancers that joined the show. Watching You Without Me was mind-blowing. Emotionally and beautifully set to scene with her son in real life. Bertie played her fictional son, who's at home with his dad, watching a football game and worrying why mum is so late, while mum's ghost is looking over their shoulders, desperately trying to make some form of contact and getting them to acknowledge her presence. The house moved from side to side as if it was dancing on the waves; the TV-screen moved from left to right and back along with the sofa, a genius invention by set designer Dick Bird.

Under Ice was another highlight with the crew trying to hack and chainsaw our main character from under the ice. Very intrusive and actually really scary was the helicopter-like device that roared very low over the audience's heads at the end of Under Ice, blowing dry ice, blasting wind, a piercing voice and hitting individual people with their very strong spotlight, thus depicting a search-and-rescue helicopter looking for the victim over the open sea under cover of darkness. The following Waking The Witch with its court-like scene was haunting and claustrophobic. On the final (male) chorus of Hello Earth, the set ended with the death of our main person being carried away over the heads of the Lords Of The Waves and making their way slowly through the audience to exit the hall to the side. I was lucky enough to be sitting in the exact row where they passed and had I stretched out my hand, I could have touched her. I didn't out of respect and as not to disturb her concentration. It was great seeing her so close though, and it made me feel even happier than I already was.

After the scheduled break it was time for A Sky Of Honey. One of the main characters and certainly the most endearing was the wooden, child-size puppet, brought to life through its very talented puppeteer Ben Thompson. A massive big world for a little guy, enhanced even
(A Sea Of Honey / A Sky Of Honey)
more by the enormous wooden doors he walked through as he entered the stage. With childlike curiosity and fragility and therefore easily spooked but too curious not to look, the puppet moved over the stage, through the band and looked at everything as if he did for the first time, feeling the need to touch and experience everything, including the musical instruments. A lovely interaction with the band members and Miss Bush ensued. The other main character, the creator here, was a painter played by Albert McIntosh, who set the scene and made things come into existence by painting them on his large canvas. In combination with the slow, almost minimalistic tones of this concept music, an almost trance-like state came over the audience. One could hear a pin drop. When the puppet was coldly sent away by the painter I suspected that many men in the audience must have felt insanely jealous as the puppet got to lay its head on Miss Bush's bosom and was comforted by her. A large part of this sequence took place in slow motion; a very hard thing to do. The live performance of her bird calling skills was spot on. Miss Bush's son Bertie got to shine in a solo, the song Tawny Moon, and although he's only sixteen he proved to be both a very talented singer and actor, who clearly felt very much at home on stage, but his voice sounded quite musical-like and therefore couldn't appeal to me that much. I had the feeling that a larger part of the audience felt the same.

The second part of this set caused me to lose my focus for a while, as they were quite long compositions and I had the feeling they remained in the same frame for too long, not layered enough for me. They were very well performed though, but just not my cup of tea. The quite disturbing scene, where the puppet killed a bird, was rather graphic and pulled me back into the show. At the end of this set, Miss Bush ended up rising in the air, tied to huge black wings and struck a pose
The Kick Inside
that took me right back to the sleeve photo on her first album The Kick Inside (1978); a very nice touch.

After a long and thunderous applause, Miss Bush returned alone to the stage and sat behind the grand piano to sing Among Angels. Quite a feat to sing such a delicate, intimate song after your audience went through the sound barrier, but she pulled it off and the people sat back to listen and enjoy the only time Miss Bush was on stage alone. Then the whole Fellowship returned for the ultimate song Cloudbusting. The audience joined in for the vocal sequence at the end of the song and nailed the timing of the words. Now really loud cheering and clapping thundered onto the stage - and judging by the type and level of noise I suspect there were quite a few Dutch fans in the audience. The performers were really surprised by all the enthusiasm and Kate Bush most of all. It was endearing to see that you could still sense a form of shyness and insecurity on stage; her voice actually trembled with emotion caused by the audience's response. She thanked the people many times for their warmth, their support and their patience during the technical hiccup, which I think most of us had already forgotten again by then. She explained that she was glad her son Bertie had convinced her to return to the stage. Without his support and encouragement she wouldn't have had the courage to go through with it all.

A big, big compliment to all of the technical staff, but especially to the sound engineer(s), who made the blending of a band of this magnitude (see line-up) sound easy and I know all too well that it isn't an easy thing to do. The sound was even, well-balanced and transparent. The level was such that the show could be enjoyed without the need for earplugs. We were seated on row nine in the direct line of the side speakers and that is no mean feat in a venue that fits over 5000 people. Thumbs up for them!

Is Kate Bush still the lithe and supple dancing figure she was 35 years ago? No, definitely not! She has grown into a mature woman of 56 years, with an even more beautiful face and an aura to match and with a stage presence that would easily make you believe that she had done this kind of show every night for the last three decades. The emotion that comes with maturity and experience in life has taken the place of the unobtainable, elfin myth she had become, and I wouldn't want to have it any other way. She (and the show) was everything I hoped for and more, much more. It made me feel extremely privileged and happy to have been part of this teeny, tiny particle of world history, but for me it was the historic event of a lifetime. Until the day I die, I will think back on this night with a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart.

Esther Ladiges

Setlist Kate Bush:

Opening set:
Hounds Of Love
Top Of The City
Running Up That Hill
King Of The Mountain
The Ninth Wave:
And Dream Of Sheep
Under Ice
Waking The Witch
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
Hello Earth
The Morning Fog
A Sky Of Honey:
An Architect's Dream
The Painter's Link
Aerial Tal
Somewhere In Between
Tawny Moon (by Bertie)
Among Angels

Line up Kate Bush:

Kate Bush: vocals, piano
David Rhodes: guitars
John Giblin: bass, bouzouki, charango
Frissi Karlsson: bass
Jon Carin: keyboards, guitar, vocals, programming
Kevin McAlea: keyboards, accordion, Uilleann pipes
Mino Cinelu: percussion
Omar Hakim: drums
Albert McIntosh: chorus, Son, Painter
Jo Servi: chorus, Witchfinder
Bob Harms: chorus, Dad
Sandra Marvin: chorus
Jacqui DuBois: chorus
Kevin Doyle: Astronomer
John Carder Bush: pre-recorded voices and narration
Paddy Bush: pre-recorded harmonic voices, Fujara

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