Documenting the long-awaited live return of Kate Bush after 35 years, Before The Dawn was recorded during a 22-night residency at the London’s Hammersmith Apollo in 2014. Selling out in under 15 minutes, untold numbers of fans missed out on what was likely a one-off run shows. Expectations were naturally high, and no-one really knew what to expect from these performances. 18 months of planning and preparation went into them, with each night consisting of a three hour live set accompanied by a multi-sensory theatrical show which included musicians, actors, dancers, designers, make-up artists, technicians, directors, 3D animators, puppeteers and an illusionist.
Despite fearing that she might be out of her depth, the complete opposite was true based on the reactions of fans and critics lucky enough to attend one of the performances which saw concert, theatre and film woven together in stunning fashion. Divided up over three acts on three CD’s, the most disappointing thing about Before The Dawn is the abandonment of plans for a DVD release to accompany the live album. It’s a visual spectacle that most may never get to see, with the colour booklet perhaps the best than can now hope for. Even so, there’s still plenty to inspire your imagination over the course of 155 minutes.
The backing band sound fantastic throughout, showing just why they were selected to play with one the greatest artists of all time. And at 56 during the recordings Kate Bush’s voice is still in great shape, hitting all the right notes. CD1/Act One is where you’ll find most of the hits, ignoring her first four LP’s in favour of the four she recorded between 1985 and 2005. That ultimately means there’s no room for the likes of ‘Wuthering Heights’ or ‘Babooshka’, but with a first disc that beings with ‘Lily’ and ‘Hounds of Love’ and closes with extended versions of ‘Running Up That Hill’ and ‘King of the Mountain’ you won’t hear too many complaints.
CD2/Act Two shifts into ‘The Ninth Wave’ and the first of two suits of songs. Effectively the second half of 1985’s Hounds Love with additional dialogue sections written by author David Mitchell, it’s the darker of the two and tells the story of a woman lost at sea. It’s here where the elaborate stage show really starts to come to life, but it’s also where the absence of a visual element is perhaps felt the most.
CD3/Act Three takes a decidedly sunnier turn into ‘A Sky of Honey’, covering the second half of 2005’s Aerial. Despite being almost twice the length of the previous two acts combined, it runs much more smoothly than ‘The Ninth Wave’ thanks to its dreamlike compositions which celebrate love and nature. There’s also the added bonus of an encore featuring the piano-led ‘Among Angels’ from 2011’s 50 Words For Snow and her magnificent 1985 hit ‘Cloudbusting’ which ends the show in style.