December 5, 2016 Kate Bush – Before the Dawn (Album Review)
English singer-songwriter, musician and record producer Kate Bush has built a name for herself with a unique style and sound over the past four decades. Releasing one acclaimed record after another, Bush has been nominated 13 times in British Phonographic Industry and 3 times for the Grammy Awards. With such accolades and discography, Bush returns with her new live album entitled Before the Dawn.
Released on December 2, 2016, this special release is a recording of her first live shows since 1979. Recorded back in 2014 at London’s Hammersmith Apollo, the album is broken down into a epic three-act masterpiece.
Act I consists of faithful renditions of highlight songs from the English Singer-Songwriter’s fifth to eighth albums. It begins aptly with the grand, driving angularity of “Lily,” from 1993’s The Red Shoes, complete with a backup choir. Bush’s soaring vocal is as powerful as ever. This is followed by one of Bush’s popular songs, “Hounds of Love,” the live rhythm section of which sounded as rich and engaging as its predecessor.
Slowing the pace, Bush then picks something off her later albums, the smooth, sexy, and suave R&B-tinged “Joanni,” from 2005’s Aerial. Another track from The Red Shoes comes next, the piano-led ballad “Top of the City,” which Bush sings as soulful as ever, even made smoother and more graceful with the accompanying female chorus. Appropriately ensuing is the much slower piano-oriented version of the ballad “Never Be Mine,” from 1989’s The Sensual World. And then enters the unmistakable horn melody and spiky guitar of the intro of Bush’s arguably biggest hit, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God).” Finally, Act I ends with a less distorted, extended performance of Aerial’s “King of the Mountain.”
Act II is practically the live rendition of what is titled as “The Ninth Wave,” the conceptual B-side of 1985’s Hounds of Love. After opening Act II with the spoken monologue titled “Astronomer’s Call,” Bush, with the accompaniment of minimalist piano, launches into the somber “And Dream of Sheep,” which carries similar sonic sentiments as those of the likes of Annie Lennox (“A Thousand Beautiful Things”) and Sarah Brightman (“Heaven Is Here”) when these equally iconic female singers are in their most reflective.
Following thereafter are “Under Ice,” “Waking the Witch,” “Watching You Without Me,” and the piano ditty “Little Light” – Classical-inspired theatrical songs that may recall Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Grieg’s Peer Gynt; the darker, Eastern Gothic excursions of Dead Can Dance (Toward the Within) and Nicolas Lens (The Fire Requiem); the Industrial adventures of Skinny Puppy (Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse); and the exotic side trips of Siouxsie and Budgie of the Banshees (The Creatures’ Feast). Then there is the Irish Folk mooning of “The Jig of Life,” followed by the ambient and Progressive-structured “Hello Earth,” and finally, the engaging Sophisti-Pop of “The Morning Fog.”
Act III is comprised primarily by the second part of Bush’s 2005-released double album, Aerial, the highlights of which are the dreamy, New Age-sounding “An Architect’s Dream,” “Sunset,” “Somewhere in Between,” and “Nocturn.” Serving as the encores to this live masterpiece of the reinvigorated and ever musically and artistically creative Bush with her big ensemble are the introspective piano song “Among Angels,” from her last studio album; and the fan favorite midtempo, 1985’s “Cloudbusting,” which is certainly a crowd-pleasing head-swayer and foot-stomper especially in live setting, making it the show’s perfect closer.
Emerged into prominence in the music scene in 1978, Kate Bush has become a genre-defying icon who has been known also a meticulous artist, as proven by her musical diversity and enduring activity. In her nearly forty-year recording career, Bush has released ten studio albums, from 1978’s The Kick Inside to 2011’s 50 Words for Snow. Despite its not being a proper studio album, the well-staged and well-orchestrated Before the Dawn may still be regarded as a worthy addition to Bush’s prolific discography. CrypticRock gives it 5 out of 5 stars.