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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Revisiting Before The Dawn: Part 6, The Curtain Falls

I was an emotional wreck by the end of Kate Bush's Before the Dawn live show. After the thrilling excitement of those first six songs with the band, then the haunting drama of The Ninth Wave, followed by the transformational majesty of A Sky of Honey, the pleasure centre in my brain had been stimulated beyond the point of euphoria. But Kate was not quite done with us yet. There had to be an encore... or two...

Among Angels

Kate first returned to the stage solo. Taking a seat at the piano she began to play the opening chords of one of her most plaintive ballads, Among Angels. After all the theatrics it was somehow even more spectacular to see Kate like this, just a woman and her piano, spinning a tale of unrequited love.

I couldn't help but connect this moment to Kate as a teenager, knocking out demo after demo onto an old cassette recorder: the urge to create melody and rhyme bursting out of her. That intensity and passion never dimmed, but over time she mastered her craft, learning the value of a breath or a pause, the power of walking us up to a thought, but not saying it out loud.

If Kate had not included such a moment in the show it would have felt incomplete. For the six minutes she sang and played you could have heard a pin drop. We all held our breath, feeling every note, every word.


The final song of the evening was another single from Hounds of Love. Despite telling such a sad true-life story, Cloudbusting is ultimately about love triumphing over fear. Most importantly for the show's purposes, it is as close to a sing-a-long as Kate has ever written. The song sounded as original as the day it was released, surely nobody manages to combine complexity and accessibility in a pop song like Kate? We clapped along, no doubt picturing Donald Sutherland and Kate in dungarees on a hill, making it rain.

The song ends with a glorious chant and this was our moment to fully become part of the show. Kate encouraged us to join in and that we did. There was something joyously cathartic about standing, clapping and singing our head off with the Fellowship: a perfect union of artists and audience bringing a tremendous performance to a fulfilling close.

After the Dawn

I was eight years old when Kate Bush first toured, so didn't get to see that show live. As the decades passed, I fully resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never get to see Kate on stage. The moment Before the Dawn was announced my entire existence became about seeing this show. I knew this was my once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience Kate as a live artist. I never had a moment's concern that the reality might not live up to my expectations (and boy were they high): I understood that if Kate had made the decision to play live again after three decades, it was because she felt she had something worthwhile to share. I knew this would not be a "greatest hits" show, could anyone seriously imagine a fifty-something Kate singing Wuthering Heights? I fully believed though that it would be something extraordinary and unique: I was not mistaken.

The heart of Before the Dawn was the formidable array of talent that Kate convened; not just those on stage, but all of the technical personnel were of the highest quality. The months of preparation that went into the show, the attention to every little detail of sight and sound were completely evident. I must give a special mention to Kate's son, Bertie, not least because he was the main driving force, ensuring that once his mother had the idea she followed through. Bertie, or Albert as we should call him now he's all grown up, proved to be a charismatic and natural performer in his own right. His solo number, Tawny Moon, was sensational and he managed to hold us all rapt. He was 16 at the time, but then his mother knows a thing or two about being a precocious talent. Having Kate and Albert together on stage made sense of the whole experience. We may love Kate for the incredible legacy of music she has given us, but I have no doubt that in her eyes, her son is her most important creation.

When I started this journey of revisitation six weeks ago, there was no sign of an official release of Before the Dawn. Then this week word emerged that Kate will be releasing the audio of the show on November 25th. I cannot wait to hear the recording and be able to wallow in the memories of that incredible evening. I'm still hopeful that Kate will release a film version of the show. These things take time: and in Kate's world they take even longer! I know that should it be released it will be because Kate believes she has a version that does justice to the show and the Fellowship that helped her create it.

Shortly after the run had ended, Kate issued a message on her website, giving her reaction to the experience:
"I was really delighted that the shows were received so positively and so warmly but the really unexpected part of it all was the audiences. Audiences that you could only ever dream of. One of the main reasons for wanting to perform live again was to have contact with that audience. They took my breath away. Every single night they were so behind us. You could feel their support from the minute we walked on stage. I just never imagined it would be possible to connect with an audience on such a powerful and intimate level; to feel such, well quite frankly, love. It was like this at every single show."
I am so glad Kate was able to feel the love that we have for her. I'm sure it must have been quite overwhelming, but I'm so happy we got to thank her in person for the joy she has given us over the years.

Two years ago tonight, Kate gave her final encore with the Fellowship. Maybe she will have enjoyed the experience so much that she'll be back on stage at some point, or perhaps she feels she has achieved everything she wanted to in that medium. Either way, seeing Before the Dawn will remain one of the defining moments of pleasure of my lifetime.

An official audio recording of Before the Dawn will be released on 25th November on Fish People. Details of the release and how to pre-order can be found by clicking here: Before the Dawn 

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  1. Thanks--again!--for the vivid retelling of your experience in Kate's world. Can we hope you will give impressions of the album? But please don't wait two years!

  2. We love and admire you and your work xx happy to have anything you feel fit for us to see or hear xxxx all my love amanda a friend from 1978 xx