Cloudbusting – Live at The Tivoli, Wimborne. March 5th 2016
Wow (1979 – 4th single)
Moving (1978 – album track from The Kick Inside)
Army Dreamers (1980 – 7th single)
Breathing (1980 – 5th single. The one about nuclear war)
Don’t Give Up (1986 – 19th single. Duet with Peter Gabriel)
The Man With The Child In His Eyes (1978 – 2nd single)
Babooshka (1980 – 6th single. “One more hit before we take you back to 1985…”)
THE HOUNDS OF LOVE album:
Running Up That Hill (1985 – 15th single)
Hounds Of Love (1986 – 17th single)
The Big Sky (1986 – 18th single)
Mother Stands For Comfort
Cloudbusting (1986 – 16th single)
THE NINTH WAVE (song suite – Side 2 of Hounds Of Love album):
And Dream Of Sheep
Waking The Witch
Watching You Without Me
Jig Of Life
The Morning Fog
Aerial (A Sea of Honey) (2005 – title track of eighth studio album)
Sat In Your Lap (1981 – 9th single. “One of Kate’s craziest songs”)
James & The Cold Gun (1978 – album track from the Kick Inside)
This Woman’s Work (1989 – 22nd single)
Wuthering Heights (1978 – 1st single)
One of the most anticipated gigs I have ever been to. Not only because it was to be my first experience of a tribute band (which I confess I was rather apprehensive about), but also because it would be my first experience of any Kate Bush material performed live. I have yet to forgive my parents properly for refusing permission to let their 15 year old son travel to London to see her perform in 1979, and I was unable to afford tickets to see the run of stage shows in 2014. I cling to the hope there is Never Forever…
So in that respect, I suppose Cloudbusting (the longest running and most applauded tribute act) initially seemed like ‘the next best thing’ and I was eagerly awaiting the show at Wimborne’s historic Tivoli Theatre. It turned out that ‘the next best thing’ was entirely disrespectful and the gig was so much more than that…
From the opening bars of Wow, it’s immediately apparent that Mandy Watson has got it. Vocally perfect, and pretty much faultless throughout she captures the essence of Kate precisely. Her range is good, and she makes the songs her own so its far more than a convincing impression. On some of the more theatrical songs, Sat In Your Lap or The Big Sky for example, she is a little more restrained than Kate and lacks the manic, screaming element that would be exhausting on stage as part of a set that requires as much delicate subtlety as it does demonic wailing. And that is a crucial point to bear in mind while watching Cloudbusting. Most of these songs were never performed live even by Kate Bush, and were not written with stage performance in mind or even recorded with a whole band in the studio at the time. Kate crafted her songs, patiently, restlessly, recording instruments and vocals over and over again using effects, re-takes (even with different musicians) and many hours of mixing sessions to achieve her unique sound.
Which makes Cloudbusting’s interpretation and performance even more convincing. The band are a five piece, and perform without a string section. This brings songs like the Jig Of Life under the spotlight in particular, and the cello-driven rhythm of Under Ice – both of which are among the evening’s highlights, all crafted skillfully by Michael Mayell on his bank of Hammond keyboards and Mac effects. A KB fan for life, like myself, Michael arranges all the material and has clearly wasted most of his life well getting a Deeper Understanding from studying minutely inside the songs. His piano on Man With The Child In His Eyes and This Woman’s Work is a delight.
So I was convinced and entertained by Cloudbusting, but not solely in their faithful reproduction of familiar material. Their bravery and confidence impressed me too, and the setlist was a revelation. I sat down expecting the set to be a ‘greatest hits’ evening, and for the first half hour that’s what we got as one hit followed another up to Dave Roberts wonderful fretless bass work and the iconic sound effects on Babooshka, including his more than credible impression of Peter Gabriel for Don’t Give Up. Then they took us back to 1985, introducing the Hounds Of Love album with a short film that reproduced my experience of the release. Three years had passed since The Dreaming, an insane album of some complicated and frankly bizarre songs that still challenge thirty years later (I know consider it a work of far-sighted genius) and like every 21 year-old male of my generation I was eagerly waiting to see what KB would come up with next.
But even after Running Up that Hill, Hounds Of Love and The Big Sky I was not expecting a performance of the full album tonight.
So when the second part of the show opened with And Dream Of Sheep, I gripped my seat. They were going for it, and for twenty minutes I was mesmerised as the Ninth Wave complete with films and sound effects washed over the (rather polite and reserved crowd) in its lush and extravagant entirety. With no filmed performances of the originals to draw on, Mandy’s performance on stage is her own. She doesn’t really seem to be trying to BE Kate Bush, but rather she embraces the spirit of KB and interprets movements and stagecraft in her own way. It really works. The stand-out of the whole evening slipped by almost unrecognised at the time, as Watching You Without Me came and went but left an indellible mark on this listener. Very clever, ‘haunting’ the musicians, whispering and touching them. I’m not here. You can’t see me…
It wasn’t all perfect, but that wasn’t what I wanted. Aerial seemed the evening’s out of place number, something of a filler. It seemed oddly incongruous with the chronology too, but effectively bridged the space after The Morning Fog before the tempo raised up for a rock-out to the end with Sat In Your Lap (Mayell’s favourite) and an extending showdown of James & The Cold Gun complete with guitar solo from the Tour Of Live EP version recorded live at Hammersmith.
I have always like This Woman’s Work, and so another hair-tingling Moment Of Pleasure followed as Michael and Mandy returned for an encore, joined on stage by the rest of the band for the inevitable and much-applauded sing-a-long-a-Wuthering Heights to close the evening.
The result is that I’d go again. I like Cloudbusting in their own right. They bring Kate Bush studio albums to life in a way that no-one else will, making them convincing and accessible to loyal fans like me whose expectations are high and critical ears are keen.
What is more, they have set me off listening to the original albums again, which can’t be a bad thing.
And d’you know what K…?
I love you better now
And below are some of the wonderful comments following the band’s sharing of this review on Facebook:
Melanie Goddard Brilliant review of what was a fabulous evening. This was my first experience of a tribute band too and my first live band since I was lucky enough to see Kate Sept 2014 so I too was full of trepidation. It was a stunning evening and I can’t wait for a chance to see the band again x
Dave Wilkinson A great piece. Can’t wait to see them again.