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KATE TEMPEST @ Chevron Lighthouse gets 10/10


Kate Tempest @ Chevron Lighthouse
w/ Omar Musa
Sunday, February 16, 2020

10/10

Kate Tempest is a force of nature. “Once I start, I don’t stop,” she said at the start of her set, and she wasn’t joking. The London wordsmith and beat poet blazed through a non-stop verbal assault, barely pausing for a break, for one and a half hours. This was a show, and a talent, unlike any other.

Backed by an emotionally resonant array of synths and beats controlled by Hinako Omori, and a stark, minimal visual production, with her eyes closed Tempest preached to the night sky like a woman possessed; a prophet, converting many with a captivating live show that hit you in the heart, punched you in the guts and made your head spin.

Omar Musa

Earlier on Omar Musa proved to be a well-suited support. He also brings a strong poetry background into a modern hip hop vibe. Born in Queanbeyan, NSW, the Malay-Aussie’s upbeat, bumpin’ tunes were a great start to the night.

Dressed in a t-shirt, baseball cap and sarong, his solid rapping was backed by some heavy beats from his DJ. It was a fun and positive performance, with an underlying message, dealing with themes of race and identity in Australia on Assimilate and Freedom. His last song LAK$A was an anthemic tune, dedicated to what he proposed should be the national dish of Australia. Though with lines like “I stir the pot, sprinkle in some chilli and serve it hot,” the song isn’t just about soup.

Kate Tempest

After a short break, the stage was set, and a giant circle screen was rolled out along with a podium covered in several synths. Kate Tempest walked on stage to huge cheers and howls, welcoming her to our far-flung city for the first time. Decked out all in black, she’s cut her familiar long, curly blonde locks, sporting a new short ‘do. It’s somewhat of a different look: androgynous, serious and focussed. The lyrical assassin wasted no time getting down to business, and the crowd hung on her every word.

She greeted the crowd, issuing humble thanks to her fans, saying how blessed she was to be in our beautiful city, and feel so welcome so far from home. She explained that she would be playing a selection of songs from her first two albums, and then her latest album, The Book Of Traps And Lessons, in its entirety. Her warm, gracious and human intro was a nice moment, and you were immediately struck by her sincerity. It was the calm before the storm, and also a call to get ready, because once she gets going, she really doesn’t stop. It’s like she must stay immersed in a trance, channelling a higher power.

Kate Tempest

And then she was off, and the barrage of intense, intelligent, poignant words commenced, starting with the rather apt Europe Is Lost from her 2016 album Let Them Eat Chaos.

Some of her work is about the human condition and global concerns, while other material is deeply personal and honest, like Ketamine For Breakfast. “My future’s looking bright, but my past is trying to ruin me.” Certain lines cut deep, resonating with different people at different times. She touches on so many topics and manages to distil them into such perfect little stanzas, there were audible gasps of amazement and emotion. Each verse hits you hard, and while you’re still reeling, the next one comes at you. There were no pauses during her rapid-fire attack, so each crescendo enticed howls from the crowd.

As brilliant as she is, Tempest’s performance could be fatiguing and relentless if it wasn’t for the music, which was wonderfully sequenced and varied. Omori was incredible in her own right; surrounded by synths, she tweaked, twinkled and summoned sounds from deep within her instruments. At times soft and delicate, at others delivering waves of burbling electronic chaos that built up to cataclysmic, shimmering heights – she gave the tracks a real, live energy.

Kate Tempest

The grand stage setup in front of the Concert Hall was an appropriate venue for the show. An ominous dark circle (perhaps the red moon name-checked in Thirsty from her new album) was lit from behind centre stage – smoking around its edges – and provided the backdrop for these two women.

She finished the first section with one of her most funky tunes, The Beigeness, from her Mercury Prize nominated 2014 debut Everybody Down, that actually got a bit of dancing going, followed by the more mellow closing track from Let Them Eat Chaos, Tunnel Vision. She left the stage with “I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more”, allowing Omari an instrumental outro that slowly faded to silence.

Kate Tempest

The rare break gave the crowd a chance to roar their appreciation. But in no time at all she was back for the second act, a full performance of the new album, which has melancholic downtempo, atmospheric synths and more emphasis on the poetry, kicking off with a rare positive love song Thirsty.

I Trap You’s sweet, carnivalesque tune belies its darker themes: “Love is a self-made trap”. Hold Your Own is an incredibly powerful track, and Holy Elixir featured an epic instrumental outro, tweaking, acid synth lines rising to a peak as the light show exploded in strobes.

Then it was over to the gorgeous, gentle piano backed People’s Faces to finish. Reminiscent of The Streets’ more emotional moments, it’s an uplifting, inspiring track, despite the Brexit-pondering intro – “It’s coming to pass, my country’s coming apart, the whole thing’s becoming such a bumbling farce/ Was that a pivotal historical moment we just went stumbling past?”

Kate Tempest

With the defiant mantra “I can feel things changing!” she declares “The old ways need to end,” while also delivering genius lines like “I’m neat with no chaser, I’m all spirit.”

It could well be that Tempest is a spirit sent from above to wake us up. A seer, a soothsayer, the town crier ranting on the corner trying to warn us about the impending apocalypse. A powerful voice bursting forth in a geyser of truths, with an unsettling rawness and honesty, she digs deep into the heart of the matter, our modern life, the human plight and struggle. And it’s truly mind-blowing to witness.

Kate Tempest is a gift. A blessing. A messenger. But will we listen?

ALFRED GORMAN

Photos by Marnie Richardson

 

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