mon 29/05/2017

Kate Tempest with Orchestrate, Brighton Festival review - heartfelt poetic dynamite | reviews, news & interviews

Kate Tempest with Orchestrate, Brighton Festival review - heartfelt poetic dynamite

Kate Tempest with Orchestrate, Brighton Festival review - heartfelt poetic dynamite

The fiery poet premieres an orchestral version of her state-of-the-nation suite

Tempest attacks every line, mining it for its rawest meaning
Entirely inhabiting her words, as ever

The capacity crowd at the Brighton Dome occasionally bursts into noisy life, whooping, whistling, roaring with indignation as poet and Brighton Festival 2017 Guest Director Kate Tempest performs her album of last autumn, Let Them Eat Chaos. During the raging, coruscating, vitally pertinent “Europe is Lost” a loud sense of audience outrage explodes as she spits the incendiary lines, “Caught sniffing lines off a prostitute’s prosthetic tits/Now he’s back to the House of Lords with slapped wrists/They abduct kids and fuck the heads of dead pigs/But him in a hoodie with a couple of spliffs/Jail him, he’s a criminal”. Tempest is ever an unlikely crowd-rouser, diminutive, shy, wearing a simple black smock top and trousers, yet she’s altogether gripping.

Behind and around her are musicians from Orchestrate, a network of young, British, classically trained musicians. They’ve worked, in the past, with artists such as The National and Christine and the Queens. Tonight they play an interpretation, arranged by their own Bridget Samuels, of the backing music for Tempest’s album. It’s the first time the two have performed together and it takes a moment to bed in at the start. At first Tempest seems to be on a different plane, going her own way with them noodling in the back, but it doesn’t take long for things to gel. By the time the poem “We Die” climaxes, their threatening tide of riffing stings, low and high, has become very much part of the potency.

It's an evening of two halves. Before the interval Orchestrate, conducted by Jóhann Jóhannsson associate Anthony Weeden, play a short set of music by Mica Levi, mostly from the films Jackie and Under The Skin, although starting with “State of New York” by Levi’s band Micachu and the Shapes, based on the orchestral remix from their Chopped and Screwed album. Their set acts as an aperitif, building a mood, and closing with the wonderfully sinister pulse of sounds from Under The Skin, which was performed alongside the film at this venue last Sunday.

Tempest, however, is the main dish, without doubt. Let Them Eat Chaos is a concept piece, set on a London street at 4.18 AM, and using the stories of seven individuals awake at that hour as a prism to view those shat on by the value-free materialist drive of contemporary Britain. They range from a drug-addled roadie to a bereaved mother to a successful young PR man in existential crisis, but all share a loneliness enhanced by the dead-eyed societal drive around them. Tempest attacks every line, mining it for its rawest meaning, blasting through it without notes, contorting her body when the narrative is riven with upset. She's relentless, until she falls, drained, after 45 non-stop minutes, upon the climatic pleaded request, “Wake up and love more”. Whereupon she receives a standing ovation, returning to the stage for three sets of bows. She looks distinctly uncomfortable with this. It doesn't seem to be what she’s in it for.

After years of reading only positive feedback about Kate Tempest, recently I’ve noticed a slight hesitancy, a turn on social media. The line seems to be that a smidgeon of guileless, socio-political verbal harrying is fine, but doesn’t she go on. Well, that’s bollocks, isn’t it. In a Britain where apathy is rife, the media backs the money, and debate has descended into splashing about images of Theresa May Photoshopped as a vampire, I welcome art that scalpels the deep-set issues ruining this nation. And Kate Tempest’s passion is a blade with bite.

Overleaf: watch Kate Tempest perform Let Them Eat Chaos on the BBC

Comments

I dont think there is a "turn on social media"- she is more known now and because of telly and radio programmes people listen to her now that are not into what she is doing or not ready to hear what she has to say and so they take it to twitter and write a couple of insults... But like, nobody turned on her, i have never come across someone who liked her work at the beginning and is annoyed now that she repeats certain issues in her work- because she just keeps getting better and better.

This was a truly stunning evening, one that I'm still struggling to shake off. More of the world needs to see this performance.

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