Tribute groups are a very special sort of entertainment. Musicians dedicate themselves to replicating a famous artist’s style and material, then go on the road playing concerts to fans of that artist who can’t see the real person because they are no longer touring, or because they ask for outrageously large ticket prices, or because they sell out in seconds, or because they are unfortunately unable to play due to age or illness or being dead.
Cloudbusting dedicated themselves to the magic and the music of Kate Bush in 2012. Three session-men, all Kate Bush fans – guitarist Chris Voysey, drummer Adam Aggiss, and Michael Mayell on keyboards, recruited a theatrically minded bass player Dave Roberts, and a plausibly Kate-Bush-soundalike front-woman, Mandy Watson. There are a lot of Kate Bush tribute acts, and it must be hard work distinguishing one unit from another, but Cloudbusting are festooned with plaudits from people who actually played with Kate Bush at some point, so that’s in their favour.
A decision has to be taken early on; should the singer sound like Kate Bush or move like Kate Bush? Cloudbusting have elected for the sound option, which means that with closed eyes it could be Kate herself playing Woolwich, but with eyes open, Mandy Watson has neither the dancer’s grace nor the unique weirdness of the real Kate Bush. The occasional tromp along the stage apron and some gestural finger spreading moves when she sings Wuthering Heights is pretty much it. It isn’t a stunning stage spectacle.
The dramatic highlight is the rendering of the song more or less the way Kate would have done it, and the big win is that the musicians on-stage are as fond of the music of Kate Bush as the fans in the auditorium. That means no-one cares that the theatrics employed by the bass player being a Witchfinder in Waking the Witch is enthusiastic more than it is convincing. The main attraction of the evening is immersion in the songs they loved 40 years ago with other fans, and an excuse to sing along, eyes shut, hands waving in the air, drifting on a cloud of warm white wine and happy memories.
The recent propulsion of Running Up That Hill up the charts, on the back of the telly smash Stranger Things, leads to the inclusion in the audience of a youth contingent, but mostly the audience are 50-somethings, teenagers when Ms. Bush adorned Top of the Pops with big-eyed music and strange but compelling dancing. They all seem to be having the time of their lives, and that is the result Cloudbusting aim for, and the result they attain with unfeigned enthusiasm and consummate professional skills.
Reviewed on 3 February 2023 and continues to tour