It’s been 35 years since British songstress/icon/muse Kate Bush has performed live so her Aug. 26 return was highly anticipated and, according to some reviews, the show surpassed the almost impossibly high expectations fans and critics had placed on it.
Bush, who draws a Stevie Nicks-like devotion among her followers, sold out 22 shows at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 15 minutes when the “Before The Dawn” shows were announced several months ago. The notoriously performance shy Bush had last played the venue for three shows in 1979.The show sounds like an artistic spectacle with all her theatrical elements still in the forefront. Bush divided the concert into three parts: the first segment was a range of songs from her catalog, the second portion was The Ninth Wave- the back half of 1985’s “Hounds Of Love” album- while the third act was the second half of 2005’s “Aerial.” In other words, if you were looking for a hits-packed show —or anything from her 1978 U.S. breakthrough, “The Kick Inside,” you were out of luck.
Here is a sampling of what the critics said. Maybe the glowing reviews and audience reception will lead her to a similar U.S. run.
New York Times: “Before the Dawn” is light and film and movement and theater, but also a rock show, dense, cathartic and physical. The audience, still as stones during the music, stood to cheer whenever tiny between-song intervals allowed. After the full-band final encore, “Cloudbusting,” it would not leave until the tech crew arrived to dismantle the stage. “Thank you so much for such a wonderful, warm and positive response,” Ms. Bush said, with remarkable composure. She’s going to do this 21 more times?
The Independent: Accompanied by music ranging from polyphonic choral harmonies to folksy minstrels, [the show is] quite stunning, undoubtedly the most ambitious, and genuinely moving, piece of theatrical pop ever seen on a British stage. Which is just what everyone here tonight was hoping for.
Billboard: Thirty-five years after making her last live performance, Kate Bush finally delivered what many of her fans thought they would never get to see: a triumphant, hit-filled and characteristically theatrical return to the stage….Onstage, Bush appeared to be enjoying herself hugely, displaying none of the nerves or apprehension you would expect of someone who hadn’t performed live in over three decades…The show ended with a majestic, muscular run through “Cloudbursting” and, in turn, the final standing ovation of the evening. Nearly ten minutes after Bush and her band had departed the stage, the audience was still on its feet in noisy appreciation.
The Guardian: For huge sections of the performance, Bush's movements look heavily choreographed: she moves with a lithe grace, clearly still drawing on the mime training she underwent as a teenager forty years on. Her voice too is in remarkable condition: she's note-perfect throughout. Backed by a band of musicians capable of navigating the endless twists and turns of her songwriting – from funk to folk to pastoral prog rock - the performances of Running Up That Hill and King of the Mountain sound almost identical to their recorded versions - but letting rip during a version of Top of the City, she sounds flatly incredible…For someone who's spent the vast majority of her career shunning the stage, she's a hugely engaging live performer, confident enough to shun the hits that made her famous in the first place: she plays nothing from her first four albums.
The Telegraph: Bush boldly strode out in front of her band and backing singers in bare feet and an extravagantly tassled jacket that made her look like a cross between Loretta Lynn and Sandie Shaw. There was something touchingly gauche and bashful about her as she awkwardly twirled around the stage. Yet while her stage craft might have been creaky, her voice was an undiminished roar, surprisingly rich and powerful after such a long break…Throughout, the pace was resolutely mid-tempo,the narratives sometimes obscure and the skits often hammy - in one artists ' scene from the Aerial segment, literally as exciting as watching paint dry...But nonetheless there was something thrilling about seeing the often bonkers but still delightful imagination of Bush run free after all this time, apparently untouched by the frenetic pace of the digital world.
BBC: Bush may not be the energetic 20-year-old who last performed on the same stage in 1979, but the 56-year-old singer has retained the power to entrance her audience. Among the cheers, some were moved to tears at this most unpredictable of comebacks. After the three-hour show, thousands spilled out into a damp London night knowing they had witnessed something unique. It's likely that many will wake next morning feeling they have been not only to a gig, but squeezed in a trip to the cinema and the theatre as well.
Bush asked that fans not take photos or video, but, of course, someone did (and we're kind of glad).