Saturday 31 December 2016

My Favourite Albums of 2016: #18 Kate Bush - Before The Dawn

When it was announced that Kate Bush was returning to the live stage in 2014 my girlfriend and I decided that it would be one of the few single artist shows that we’d be prepared to break our own price limit rules to see. Kate’s music had been a constant in our lives and with the distinct possibility that this would be our only chance to witness her play meant that we were prepared to pay for top price tickets (over £100 – more than we would ever normally consider for a single artist show) to see her.

Thankfully the online ticket scrum worked in our favour and in August 2014 we found ourselves seated on the second row of the balcony to watch The K Fellowship present Before The Dawn. The show was everything we wanted it to be and more; an overwhelming piece of musical theatre that was worth every penny. 

One thing that struck me about the show was how old fashioned it was. The staging didn’t rely on computerisation, but real solid physical props, and the band themselves, who were all clearly superb versatile professionals, had at times a whiff of the deeply proggy to their sound.

That sense of the old fashioned has translated exceptionally well to this recording of the shows. First of all, it wasn’t released to streaming services. Yes folks, if you wanted Before the Dawn, you had to pull out your wallet. 

Secondly, the release came in gatefold style packaging, with photos and sleeve notes. Remember those? 

Then there’s the recorded sound itself. Before the Dawn doesn’t make the mistake so many live albums make of being produced, overdubbed and polished to the point of not sounding live. This sounds as I remember the show. It still has that booming echoing quality that indoor live sound has. Kate’s voice as well sounds very real; slightly deeper, occasionally slightly gruff (although let’s be clear – Kate’s live vocal is still one hundred times more perfect than most singers in live rock bands – and the gruffness is really just an occasional throatiness). 

My only complaint is that the lengthy applause by the audience seems to have been edited and shortened, hence losing some of the sheer sense of raw emotion from the crowd, but the reasons for this are understandable as a home listening experience. Despite that minor gripe, Before The Dawn is as close as possible to what I wanted – an accurate presentation of a powerful, graceful and thrilling show that works best played very loud.

Kate Bush - And Dream Of Sleep (Live)

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