As Before The Dawn comes to an end, we celebrate the live event of the year
Andrew Trendell

14:19 26th September 2014

A winged Kate Bush is being carried off stage by masked pallbearers, passing by fans with mouth agape - struggling to comprehend that not only is one of the most visionary minds in music before of them, but inches away. The entire spectacle defies everything: expectations, convention and belief.

Everything you've read about Kate Bush's Before The Dawn London residency has been true. It's an an utterly mind-melting extravaganza that stands up as a triumph of theatre as well as music. It's been weeks since we first witnessed it, and we're still reeling from its full impact. 

A grand production it may be, but there's still something ultimately tender, intimate and human about the whole experience. Starting as a more traditional 'rock band' performance, Bush still stands high above many of her peers. As the gradually pulsing rush of 'Lily' builds the tension, its soon burst by the sheer celebration of 'Hounds Of Love' and the cosmically-charged rush of 'Running Up That Hill  - two early peaks, but not the highest. 

The basic elements of Bush and band would have been monumental enough, but what follows will go on to string together the chapters of music history. The walls come crashing down on the very notion of a standard gig, as the drama of Bush being stranded and lost at sea unfolds. 

This writer has rarely been moved by tears by a live performance, but as the vision of Bush on the verge of drowning fades out along with the closing notes of 'And Dream Of Sheep' massaging the raw-nerved memories of anyone you've ever had to let you, even the stoniest of ice-cold hearts would turn to molten mush. 

'The Ninth Wave' second act of the show is where you really see where all of the ticket money was spent, and why Bush chose now to return from live retirement. As the stage becomes a sea patrolled by a troop of skeleteon-skinned fish and the battle to save Bush from the icey depths begins, all while she wonders through the drama and theatrics with unmatchable grace, it becomes apparent that is the show that Bush needed to go - and it's beyond a pleasure to watch, it's an honour. 

The brooding menace of 'Under Ice' as she hollers 'It's me!' raises the heart to the back of the throat, as if it was written to be performed tonight and tonight alone. Seeing Bush's ghost attempt in vain to communicate with her (real life) son, there's chilling sense of reality and humanity before 'Watching You Without Me' leaves all the dumbstruck and the intoxicating opulence of 'The Jig Of Life' sends Hammersmith into a restless swoon.

The final act, 'A Sky Of Honey', fittingly welcomes the sunrise with another entire world of operatic beauty. Based around her sun attempting to paint the perfect sky, the stage becomes a marvellous woodland where Bush serenades renaissancefolk and a sweet little wooden boy. 

Clouds pass, trees crash to the stage and wonder is fulfilled as Bush elegantly meanders barefoot through 'The Architects Dream', 'Tawny Moon', 'Nocturn', before 'Aerial' provides the breathless full stop. 

As she returns for an encore of 'Among Angels', and while it's hackneyed to say, witnessing Bush at the peak of her powers is a true vision of heaven.

"I still dream," she pines on the epic ending of 'Cloudbusting' as fans flock to the front of the stage to decorate it with flowers and gifts. Judging by the shameless fits of love and undying devotion between tracks, Before The Dawn is all of our dreams made manifest. She may not always be visible, but sleep comfortably in the knowledge that Kate Bush can't be toppled from her throne. You can hardly grumble about the 35 year wait when it's the show of a lifetime. 

Tickets to Kate Bush's remaining Before The Dawn London shows at Hammersmith Apollo are on sale now. For tickets and more information visit here.

Full remaining dates are as follows: 

Friday, 26th September 
Saturday, 27th September 
Tuesday, 30th September 
Wednesday, 01 October

Below: 8 things we learned from Kate Bush's London comeback gig

  • No one's going to get to see much of it: Prior to the gig, Bush posted a statement on her website which said, "It would mean a great deal to me if you would please refrain from taking photos or filming during the show. I know it's a lot to ask but it would allow us to all share in the experience together." For most of her fans, she was just too darn polite to disobey. (Photo: Splash)

  • She has really, really dedicated fans: Some spent literally thousands of dollars coming from the US and beyond for the show, many cried when they secured tickets, and one fan told reporters, "If I die after tonight, everyone should be totally OK with it." (Photo: Splash)

  • Every celebrity on the planet was in the crowd: Lily Allen, Gemma Arterton, Anna Calvi, Frank Skinner, Lauren Laverne... The list goes on. We're not bitter or anything though, we're sure they got up early in the morning and spent an hour tensely refreshing the sixteen tabs they had open to buy tickets. We're absolutely sure of it. (Photo: WENN)

  • Her merchandise is not just T-shirts and CDs: Don't get us wrong, all of the usual merch you'd expect to buy was available, but you could also purchase elaborate programmes, pendants, fish masks and first aid kits - all of which made sense as the show progressed, but the first aid kit probably led some to wonder just how avant-garde this show would be. Should they be fearing for their safety? (Photo: REX)

  • She's not afraid of being too theatrical: There were four acts to the show. There was an interval. The RSC director was involved. Basically, this was a full-blown dramatic production, which just happened to be helmed by one of the most famous singers in existence. Highlights included a dramatic staging of the Ninth Wave album which involved a life boat, a puppeteer and confetti canons which splurted out not gold ribbons, but a poetry extract. Of course. (Photo: REX)

  • No matter how much you paid for tickets, she's not going to do the hits for you: In an intense, layered, four-act, dramatic show, Bush still couldn't muster the inclination to play 'Wuthering Heights'. The strangest thing about that? No one minded - because it was Bush at her best, rather than 'the best of Bush'. (Photo: REX)

  • She's not going to do an encore, no matter how loud you cheer: Despite the fact that the crowd clapped, yelled, stomped and chanted for a solid ten minutes, the end of Bush's exquisitely crafted show was just that - the end. It's important to remember that this is as much a piece of performance art as it is a gig. You wouldn't go and see Romeo & Juliet and demand that the leads come back and stab themselves one more time.

  • 35 years away from the stage hasn't hurt her stamina: The show lasted 3 hours. Not only did Bush manage to sing song after song for this long (try saying that when you're drunk), she also managed to keep up with the full-blown shipwreck re-enactment and countless other aforementioned energy-sapping endeavours. Good luck keeping that up for 22 more shows, Kate.

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Photo: Rex