Review: Cloudbusting. Never for Ever 40th Anniversary tour. Nottingham Playhouse

As Kate Bush herself said of Never for Ever “It’s difficult to talk about the album without you actually hearing it, I suppose it’s more like the first album, The Kick Inside, though, than the second, Lionheart, in that the songs are telling stories. I like to see things with a positive direction, because it makes it so much easier to communicate with the audience of listener. When you see people actually listening to the songs and getting into them, it makes you realise how important it is that they should actually be saying something. There are a lot of different songs. There’s no specific theme, but they’re saying a lot about freedom, which is very important to me. (credit Deanne Pearson, The Me Inside. Smash Hits (UK), May 1980)

I am a big fan of all the musically theatrical albums and songs created and sung by Kate Bush so it comes as no real surprise that I should hot foot it to see and hear the acclaimed Kate Bush tribute band Cloudbusting with Mandy Watson at the helm at Nottingham Playhouse for the last stop of their 40th Anniversary tour of Kate’s album Never for Ever. And this is my first time seeing them so I am doubly excited.

The cover on the 1980 album was considered a tad risqué for its time with its freakish artistry featuring a pale and unearthly barefooted Kate Bush and a visual cacophony of painted depictions of demons, imps, swans, an oddly smiling whale head and devilish bats all being born and released like ferocious diabolical orgasm from under her open skirts. The nightmarish creatures echo those unsettling illustrations that might suggest Goblin Market or artist Eric Kincaid’s fantastical paintings. Some, like the swans and doves are beautiful, others are much more creepy. Kate Bush certainly knows how to garner attention with her creative decisions. On the back of the album she is seen as a bat flying off into the night – like you do.

Cloudbusting’s evening of Kate Bush songs wows this Nottingham Playhouse audience all here to hear familiar Kate Bush songs accurately reproduced with a passion second to none. Mandy Watson’s vocals are uncannily like Kate Bush and the whole musical ensemble, band, vocalists and Watson totally earn their reputation as Britain’s top tribute band. On backing vocals and keyboard we have Julia Krajewska also joined on backing vocals by Nadie Keating. The four male band members are Michael Mayell (piano, keyboards and vocals), Dave Roberts (electric bass, mandolin and vocals), Chris Voysey (electric guitar and vocals, and Adam Aggiss (drums, percussion, samples and vocals).

From the third Kate Bush album Never for Ever we get spot on renditions of ‘Blow Away’, and  ‘All We Ever Look For’. ‘Egypt’ has echoes of the mysteries of the pyramids and cult worshipers chasing out demons with orgiastic screams and chants. ‘The Wedding List’, chills and thrills with its gangster film undertones as  the groom is shot dead after a wedding – “I’ll get him on the wedding list. I’ll get him and I will not miss.” Like in many of the songs, Rob Dixie’s video projections work well at supporting and enhancing the vocals.

‘Violin’ simply bursts with frenetic energy. ‘The Infant Kiss’ and its disturbing themes is inspired by the Gothic horror movie The Innocents, which in turn was inspired by Henry James’ novel ‘The Turn Of The Screw’. ‘Babooshka’, ‘Delius (Song of The Summer)’ and ‘Blow Away’ are complete opposites in style and Cloudbusting do them all justice in their playing and singing versatility.

Many of the songs this evening prove popular with this Nottingham Playhouse audience filled almost to the rafters with Kate Bush enthusiasts. Of a certain age, I might add. From the Never for Ever album the fatalistic  ‘Army Dreamers’ and hydrogen bomb themed ‘Breathing’ complete with imagery of an unborn baby in the womb and terrifying mushrooming bomb clouds are just a couple of highlights in the two hour show.

Cloudbusting also fill the evening up with well known songs from some of the earlier Kate Bush albums like The Kick Inside, Lionheart, The Red Shoes, Hounds Of Love, The Dreaming and The Sensual World.

As we leave the theatre there will be many going home with memories and ear worms of ‘The Man With The Child in His Eyes’, ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Wow’, ‘The Red Shoes’, ‘Rocket’s Tail’, ‘This Woman’s Work’, ‘Sat In Your Lap’, ‘Running Up That Hill (a deal with God)’, ‘Hounds of Love’ and of course ‘Cloudbusting’.

Mandy Watson and Cloudbusting are not only very talented but the most friendly and open band seen on the Nottingham Playhouse stage for a long while. I’m sure we will welcome them back anytime. This woman’s work is exceptional and a joy to appreciate.

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