Bonus CD of the Month: Kate Bush-Before the Dawn

Kate Bush's Triumphal Before The Dawn.

Written by John Diliberto on January 24, 2017

Anybody who is even remotely interested in Kate Bush, and no one is just remotely interested, knows that she released a triple CD live album last year. Kate Bush’s Before the Dawn is an object lesson in how to make a live performance and album. In 2014, Bush played a nightly stand over the course of 3 weeks and the music from those concerts is captured here.

If anything, Bush brings more heft to these performances than on the original albums. The music is heavier. “Waking the Witch” is even darker, than the original on Hounds of Love and she’s altered the narrative parts to follow a loose story she employed at the concert. The story is somewhat unfocussed and confusing out of context, but unlike Kate Bush’s character lost at sea, she arrives on shore at full sail, all canons blasting. Kate Bush hasn’t recorded a new album since 2011 and she’s put out only 2 albums of all new materiel in this millennium. Before the Dawn once again signals Kate Bush’s preeminence in a world of acolytes.

Courageously, most of the material is drawn from her last 4 studio albums, eschewing songs like “Wuthering Heights,” “Wow” and “The Man with The Child in His Eyes” for materiel from The Hounds of Love and beyond. But the music she has picked is as powerful as any of those songs.

She performs the entire second side of Hounds of Love, “The Ninth Wave” suite and it’s even more overwhelming in concert. She replicates all of the special effects from her albums, the spoken words and sound effect collages and the stuttering vocal of “Watching You Without Me.” Her voice, then at the age of 56 at the time of the recording, is as powerful and rhapsodic as ever. Scaling the heights and depths of its four octaves. She doesn’t quite claim those high notes like she used to, but she makes up for it with an earthier gravitas on the bottom end.

The “Third Act” or disc should be something of a revelation for those who didn’t keep up with Kate on her last few recordings. She performs the entire second disc of her 2005 album, Aerial, subtitled “A Sky of Honey.” It is a quietly epic work full of subtle shifts of mood and texture and some of her more forceful piano playing.

The Before the Dawn album notes claim that there were no post-concert overdubs or fixes and that’s astounding given the amount of coordination, live movement and props that were involved.

Who would’ve thought when Kate Bush was draping herself on a piano on Saturday Night Live so many years ago, that her career would quickly take a tangent full of elegance, grace, and poignancy.

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