Kate Bush took to the stage at the Hammersmith Odeon on May 14th, 1979, to round off The Tour of Life. She knew then that it would be her last concert for a considerable period, but what nobody expected it was to be a 35-year long live hiatus.
Despite never touring after 1979, Bush didn’t disappear too far away from the public eye. She made sporadic television appearances, including performances on Wogan, Comic Relief, and The Secret Policeman’s Ball, but the singer never felt the need to play a headline show.
Her rise to fame was atypical, and she never cut her teeth playing back rooms of dingy pubs in forgotten towns to six people. Naturally, when it wasn’t an integral part of her musical DNA compared to her contemporaries, Bush never had the same love for it as you get when you’ve graduated from sweat-pits to stadiums.
Just because Bush managed to circumvent the traditional system, that doesn’t mean she didn’t put in the hard yards to achieve success, but it did leave her with a unique lens on the music industry, which simply doesn’t hold much reliance on the live facet.
It wasn’t as though Bush had stage fright or didn’t get a thrill from performing to her adoring masses of fans, but playing live was never a priority at any stage throughout her career. To this day, she’s still only toured once. Nevertheless, her 2014 Before The Dawn residency in Hammersmith saw fans flock from all over the world to catch a glimpse of a magician in her layer.
“It wasn’t designed that way, because I really enjoyed the first set of shows we did (in 1979),” Bush explained in 2016 about her lengthy absence from gigs. “The plan at the time was that I was going to do another two albums’ worth of fresh material, and then do another show. But of course, by the time I got to the end of what was The Dreaming album, it had gone off on a slight tilt, because I’d become so much more involved in the recording process.”
She continued: “And also, every time I finish an album, I go into visual projects, and even if they’re quite short pieces, they’re still a huge amount of work to put together. So I started to veer away from the thing of being a live performing artist, to one of being a recording artist with attached visuals.”
Hammersmith is Bush’s spiritual home, and it was befitting to break her hiatus at the historic London venue. Her run of shows was far from typical, and Bush provided 22-shows that reportedly resembled something astonishing that blurred the lines between music and theatre.
Bush treated the run of live shows with the same vigorous approach as an album. Every single element of it was meticulously considered, and it created a spectacle that is rarely associated with live music.
Unfortunately, no professionally filmed footage from Before The Dawn has been released, but the fan-shot clips that have emerged paint a truly immersive picture of those special evenings.
Bush is undoubtedly a perfectionist who can’t refrain from thinking outside of the box. After all, it’s an attribute that she’s built her career on. While she’s not an artist that everybody wholly appreciates due to her unorthodox tendencies, but for the rest of us, that’s what makes Kate Bush so appealing.