“In a funny way, the way I approached putting this show together was exactly how I would put a video together, except it was just longer,” Ms. Bush said. The album also includes a rehearsal performance of a song Ms. Bush reluctantly cut from the show, “Never Be Mine.” She said, with a laugh: “People had to go home from the concert. We couldn’t keep them there all night.”
While Ms. Bush rarely gives interviews — she learned, early in a self-guided career, to maintain her privacy — she comes across as far more pragmatic than otherworldly, an artistic problem-solver. And even her speaking voice is melodic.
The “Before the Dawn” shows were phantasmagoric spectacles, involving video, choreography, lighting and puppetry. They were filmed, but early ideas about releasing both audio and video of the concert gave way to the current audio-only release. At the moment, Ms. Bush said, there are “no plans” to release the film.
“It was designed as a live piece of theater,” Ms. Bush said, “and I think that film is such a different medium from being in the presence of people onstage and among an audience. It’s such a completely different experience. I think in a lot of ways that a live album is more representative of what we’ve done.”
Ms. Bush became a hitmaker in Britain when she emerged in 1978, still a teenager, with the single “Wuthering Heights.” At the height of British punk, the song retold the Emily Brontë novel in an odd, arresting tour-de-force of piano filigree, continually unfolding melody and stratospheric vocals.
That introduced a career of constant transformations. “I do want to push,” Ms. Bush said. “I want to push the people that work with me, and I want to try and push the music somewhere. Each time I start a new album, I want it to be different from what I’ve done before.”
In Britain, Ms. Bush’s songs have reached the Top 10 from 1978 to 2005. In the United States, she’s best known for the 1985 single “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” and her radiant guest vocal on Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” but she has a devoted following that includes many songwriters, among them Tori Amos and Maxwell. Through the years, Ms. Bush’s music has encompassed operatic agility, folky delicacy, hard-rock power, cabaret guile and global rhythms, while her lyrics have featured or alluded to characters from history and literature (Joan of Arc, Molly Bloom from “Ulysses,” Peter Pan) as well as anonymous but affecting archetypes: parents, children, dreamers, mystics.
Among them, who is she? “I can’t say that I can think of any of my songs that are really at all autobiographical,” she said, “and yet at the same time, they have to be personal, because you’re throwing yourself into them. I guess it’s the same for any artist: It’s not necessarily them, but it’s got them in it.”
She added: “It’s a bit like when you’re reading a story out loud and you have to put on the voices for the different characters. I don’t know if I really identify with them, but you have to find out who’s telling the story.”
She opened the “Before the Dawn” shows with “Lily,” which invokes the protection of angels. “It starts with a prayer,” Ms. Bush said. “I wanted the whole room to be with this prayer that would protect us all throughout the journey.”
Returning to live performance was “very scary,” Ms. Bush said. “I didn’t know if I would be any good. That was really the fear factor. The thing of putting the show together, though it was daunting and challenging, it was something that I felt I could do. Whether it would be any good or not was another story. But stepping into it as a performer was really pretty terrifying.”
She had been thinking about performing again after making her 2011 album, “50 Words for Snow.” She also wanted to work with her son, Bertie McIntosh, then 16, who urged her to “push the ‘go’ button,” she said.
Once she got started, “there was a real sense of it wanting to happen,” she said. “Sometimes when I’ve started projects, from everywhere you get obstacles flying in. But with this, people that I wanted to get on the team, who’d said ‘I’d love to do it but I can’t,’ would suddenly get a project canceled — and they could.”
There were other coincidences. Ms. Bush had decided to perform “Joanni,” her song about Joan of Arc, in the opening section of the show — a concert presentation before the dreamlike theatrical experience to follow. Her keyboardist had recently recorded cathedral bells in Rouen, France, where Joan was burned, and he played them at rehearsal. Ms. Bush had changed the key to accommodate her aging voice, and “the first thing we all said was, ‘My God, they’re in tune!’” she recalled. “If we hadn’t taken the song down in pitch, they wouldn’t have been in tune.”
Her choice of material for the bulk of the show was obvious, Ms. Bush said. With a fixed, theatrical production rather than a stripped-down tour, she could perform two extended narrative suites from albums 20 years apart: “The Ninth Wave,” from the 1985 album “Hounds of Love,” and “A Sky of Honey,” half of “Aerial” from 2005.
“The Ninth Wave” landed her in the water tank, because Ms. Bush wanted to make her character’s situation concrete. “This poor woman,” Ms. Bush explained. “She’s been shipwrecked and lost at sea, so she’s all alone in the water just desperately trying to stay alive. As she tries not to fall asleep, to just try and stay awake, of course she can’t. The more tired she becomes, she starts drifting in and out of delirium and dreams. The idea was setting up the reality on this big screen, where she is actually in the water, and then every time she falls asleep and steps onto the stage it’s a dream.”
“A Sky of Honey” follows the oceanic turbulence and the percussive, hard-riffing, globe-hopping music of “The Ninth Wave” with a meditation on light, color, nature, art and beauty. “What really triggered it was this idea of light and birdsong,” Ms. Bush said. “Why do birds sing with the appearance of light and then stop? It naturally evolved into this idea of stepping through a day, starting in the afternoon and ending up at the break of dawn.”
From planning the spectacle to the CD release, Ms. Bush has been working on “Break of Dawn” since 2012. In creating a visual superstructure for her elaborate original music, she said: “We were putting layers of work on top of layers of work. In a way, this was building on top of buildings that were already there.”
She hasn’t considered further projects yet. “I don’t know what I want to do next,” she said. “Every time I sit down to do a new project, it feels like I’ve never done it before. Maybe some live work again. But whatever I do next, it’s going to be work from the ground.”