Gig review: Cloudbusting at Rescue Rooms

Words: Richard Wilkinson-Smith
Photos: Stephanie Webb
Thursday 20 June 2024
reading time: min, words

Cloudbusting are an established and wildly popular tribute to the magnificent music of Kate Bush. We went to watch their recent show at Rescue Rooms, as part of the band's The Line, The Cross and The Curve Tour...

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Named after the wondrous Hounds of Love era single, Cloudbusting keep people coming back for more, as evidenced by this gig which continues a decade's worth of shows at Nottingham's Rescue Rooms – only broken by Covid-19 and a seated audience of similarly overjoyed punters at The Playhouse a few years ago.
This time, the tour is named The Line, The Cross and The Curve, after the 30th anniversary of a film Kate Bush was involved in in 1994, shortly after the hugely underrated (by her standards) Red Shoes album was released the year before. The band – who have been playing for over 12 years "growing organically" in the Cornwall and Plymouth area originally, before performing all over the UK and Europe – have a reputation for excellent vocals and faithful renditions of one of pop music's most visionary artists. She is one who could impress and bring together the likes of prog's Dave Gilmour and punk's Johnny Rotten in total agreement that she was, and is, a genius.
It is not hard to see why frontwoman Mandy Watson has been embraced by Kate's fans throughout the land, because not only is she pretty much pitch-perfect throughout, she also tells of her love for her hero's music with such love and humour. Earlier on in the set, she talks about seeing Kate for the first time on Top of the Pops, as an 8-year-old girl sat in front of the TV, and jokes about playing – and scratching – her step-mums vinyl in secret sessions before receiving the same copy as a gift from her a few years later. Although there is lots of humour on display here, Mandy is at times close to tears during the music and in her reminiscence of Kate Bush's meaning to her.
The first set starts with the more subtle material, and it is played outstandingly well by a five-piece band who are replicating a much bigger group on the rare occasions that Kate Bush performed live over the years (she only toured in 1979 and had a residency at the Hammersmith Odeon in 2014). Pianist Matt Bowers and bassist Dave Roberts bring a subtle classiness to proceedings with their tasteful playing, and the birthday boy, the skilful and subtle Chris Voysey on guitar, rocks out when needed, with Adam Aggiss completing the line-up with some fine drumming.
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I edge closer to the front of the stage after realising that a very loud group in front of me are not going to keep quiet any time soon during Cloudbusting's tone-setting versions of the playful Wow and the exquisite ballad Moving (which opened up the aforementioned Hammersmith show for Kate's first tour). A woman looks at me in disdain at their bawdy behaviour and says "It's that blonde woman over there isn't it, she needs to shut the f--- up. I'm going to sort her out in a minute...". I'm 100% sure she wasn't joking.
Anyway, it's much nicer at the front, and let's face it, Kate's fans are more attentive and/or sophisticated than most. It was never going to be a moshpit on the likes of the following track Symphony in Blue, which fit in perfectly with the MOR standards that cracked the charts in the early 1980s.
Parts like this are where Mandy puts her playful personality to use, her subtle stage presence complimenting Kate's songs so well. Imitate Kate Bush? You'd be crazy to try, and she doesn't. But Mandy does nail the treacly vocal tones of Symphony to perfection and continues in this vein when the music begins to focus on the Red Shoes album. And it's a magical version of Top of the City here, as Rob Dixie's background visuals are at their best with some superb footage of the New York skyline. I joked with Mandy in our gig preview that I wanted Rob to show the sexy Babooshka video in full on the projector, but I'll forgive them for not doing so after witnessing this spine-tingling moment.
A smooth and tasteful version of Army Dreamers and the doomy and post-apocalyptic Breathing are dedicated to the soldiers who fought on D-Day on the week of its 80th anniversary... Just as the cackling blonde idiot laughs again in the audience. Thankfully we don't hear much more noise from her and her friends after that... Hopefully she was run down by a Sherman tank. The more subtle, slower material allows this band to show their chops fully, and Breathing has some taut lead guitar by Chris and the next song Sunset, from Kate's tasteful, ambient 2005 comeback album Aerial, showcases Dave's flawless fretless bass work. The track may be from a latter album, but it continues the theme of red: "Who knows who wrote that song of Summer / That blackbirds sing at dusk, This is a song of color / Where sands sing in crimson, red and rust, Then climb into bed / And turn to dust"  
I had the chance to chat to bassist Dave at the Rescue Rooms merchandise table after the performance, and he was telling me about his musical adventures in both metal and progressive projects in the past, and it's hardly surprising with his varied musicianship clearly visible from track to track. Shortly after this, Dave also does a strong vocal on classic ballad Don't Give Up, taking on the role of Peter Gabriel solidly. A spritely Rubberband Girl paces the set brightly after the interval, as the crowd heats up a little more for a hearty singalong to compliment Mandy's light and hearty vocal, but there is a technical issue with her headphones on King of the Mountain that throws off her vocal a little, and it's drowned out by the band, after she jokingly gets them to stop and restart again. The second part of the performance is more the classic pop that Kate graced us with when she wasn't just being stupidly avante garde and creative – but this tour's focus on the Red Shoes album gives space for immaculate gems like And So Is Love, which enables Adam's moody cymbal splashes and subtle drumbeats; a spritely, funky, Lily that gets everyone in the audience moving; and a gorgeous Moments of Pleasure, a song that not only meant something to Kate Bush - it being about her mother - but it clearly means lots to many in attendance and to Mandy who points to the sky at the end of the song. What a phenomenal ballad, expertly executed.
Now we get to the big hitters: Hounds of Love does my all time favourite Kate song justice, and a stomping Running Up That Hill (made very famous again in the past few years by the Stranger Things TV show) allows Adam's heavy drumbeat to make it's mark, and the sound here at the Rescue Rooms is mixed very finely indeed. Babooshka is a rousing singalong, as is the masterful Wuthering Heights, the classic that introduced many of us to the pop genius's work. The group walk offstage before returning quickly for an encore of This Woman's Work and Cloudbusting, that epic song that gave this group their moniker, as the brilliant Donald Sutherland-starring video flashes on the background screen.
Mandy thanks the audience before the band pose for a crowd photo featuring many beaming faces – be it Kate Bush devotees or keen casuals like myself – that are delighted that this live musical gap in the calendar has been filled by such a fine group of musicians in Cloudbusting. 
Write-up courtesy of NottinghamshireLive. Cloudbusting performed at Rescue Rooms on 14th June 2024. The full The Line The Cross and The Curve movie is available on YouTube


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