One of the cautiously anticipated highlights of 2014 must surely have been Kate Bush’s first live shows in 35 years and her Before the Dawn concert series. There were early rumours it would feature a full live performance of the much loved concept suite The Ninth Wave from Side 2 of the legendary 1985 Hounds of Love LP – and it did. There was also lots of press this year including a nice edition of MOJO in October with a big spread on the making of the Hounds of Love with the famous “…its in the trees..its coming” quote from Night of the Demon. There was also a Kate Bush inspired MOJO Cover CD The Dreamers – yes – they still do those, and around the same time a good article on the making of the Hounds of Love in Uncut.
As it turned out it was King of the Mountain of Aerial that was the live highlight. Of course I was not there being a mere half a world away but in reading the reviews it was the Pitchfork review by Jude Rodgers that I most enjoyed – the following is an excerpt:
…the start of the show underwhelms. The first seven songs of the set are delivered simply and plainly, Bush’s band lining up conventionally behind her. A mixture of hits (“Hounds of Love”, “Running Up That Hill”) and album tracks (“Joanni”, “Never Be Mine”) shimmer out one by one, lit diamonds in a stage set sparkling in basic configurations…The band, and Bush’s voice, also wobble at points; her singing is definitely not note-perfect tonight, despite what others have said. Nevertheless, it remains a lovely, special thing, like a whisper up the spine, especially over the high notes in “Top of the City”. It’s just enough to carry this opening section, which lacks theatrical weight.
THEN comes the “wind whistling” during “King of the Mountain”, and—bang—everything goes crazy. The band’s drummer is suddenly stage-front and spotlit, swinging a rope. Smoke and yellow paper fly out from guns on the stage. The paper features the poem on which The Ninth Wave—the suite of songs on Hounds of Love’s second side—was based. You realize the first seven songs were a MacGuffin, an elaborate ruse. The effect is jolting and astonishing.
What follows is the greatest part of the show, as the story of a woman lost at sea is brought to dramatic life. Projections of waves toss and surge on a screen, as do heavier ones, on the stage floor, wrought in fabric. The set is like a whale’s mouth, huge teeth bending in, with a back projection of our girl in her lifejacket. Dancers in strange steampunk costumes menace the stage; at the end of the set, they carry Bush away in tragic and terrifying fashion.
Then there’s a man phoning the coastguard, and Bush’s husband and son in their living room, arguing about dad burning the dinner. This set-piece begins embarrassingly, before taking another dramatic turn: Bush turning up behind the door, unseen, in black, like a ghost. What would happen if she was lost, we all wonder, as her stunning songs, performed stunningly, ram this message home. It’s an incredible half hour…
So as 2014 draws to a close its a good time to be thinking about Kate Bush and here are five amazing performances as called by Pitchfork. Personally I recommend the 1987 live performance of Running Up The Hill featuring Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar with great vocals but also for the mullet haircut of the bass player and some very tight live drumming given the LP track’s drumming was programmed on a Linn Drum Machine.
Night of the Demon.
It’s a dark night, there’s a pale moon, and something is moving in the trees…The demon’s apparition is famously referenced in a séance scene, where Professor Harrington (Maurice Denham) – in the grip of communion with the spirit world – utters the bone-chilling words: “It’s in the trees! It’s coming.” Herself a child of the British gothic tradition, singer-songwriter Kate Bush later used a sample of these words in the opening moments of her 1986 song ‘Hounds of Love’…
…all inspiration from the wonderful A YEAR IN THE COUNTRY