mon 20/05/2024

Kate Tempest, The Haunt, Brighton | reviews, news & interviews

Kate Tempest, The Haunt, Brighton

Kate Tempest, The Haunt, Brighton

UK hip hop label Big Dada's star turn heads out on her first headlining tour

Kate Tempest, punk rock hip-hop poet

Even before Kate Tempest appears, it’s clear this isn’t going to be an evening of slam poetry jamming. Her band walk on, three guys who attack a line-up of electronic kit with vigour, one wielding drumsticks, alongside Anth Clarke, a striking black female MC, who looks like a 2007 nu-raver in baseball cap, white sunglasses and a crop top. They whip up a hammering electro racket before cutting out abruptly when Tempest walks on, all smiles, flowing blonde locks and a low-key black T-shirt.

She breaks into “Marshall Law” from her Mercury Music Prize-nominated album Everybody Down. “Everywhere is monsters / Tits out, wet mouth, heads back / Shouting and screaming just to prove they exist,” she begins, heading into an observational poem-tale of jaded, coke-addled, music biz desperation, the band leaping in a third of the way through and amping her words into something sonically visceral.

The last time I saw Tempest was with her band, the Sound of Rum, now defunct. They were a ramshackle, punky outfit who had something of Nineties crusty about them, a whiff of Back to the Planet, full of vim and righteousness with Tempest an unlikely front-woman, yet with a vehement presence. They were a riveting live act and I suspected she might have become more mannered since, delivering more of a controlled performance. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

She freestyles a polemic about how we all need to have more empathy and less greed. She’s right and shines with it

In the media her image has developed from Glastonbury far-flung fields scallywag to Guardian-friendly Hay-on-Wye poetess, assisted by an impressive array of recognition, such as a Ted Hughes Award for her ground-breaking theatrical piece Brand New Ancients. Even on her album the production is designed to let her words have space to breathe rather then emphasise the music. Live however, like Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip before her, she turns her amalgam of sound and word into a righteous assault, a polemic wherein electronic punch pushes the poetry forward to make her audience bellow approval and jig from side to side.

The set is only an hour long but is well-paced, swerving between quiet chats and all out electronic punk-ups, interspersed with impromptu asides where she’s full of excitement at being here, something she conveys so passionately only a churl wouldn’t be willing her on. The music often drowns out her words but it doesn’t matter, there’s an overriding drive, and lines slip through, heartfelt shouts out to the individual trapped in a conveyor belt society, such as the devastating closer from “Chicken”: “All he ever wanted to do was the done thing / All he ever wanted to make was the grade / But as long as you live for other people’s opinions / You’ll never be more than afraid.”

Towards the end Tempest has The Haunt in the palm of her hand, her band turning the heat up, firing the songs “Circles” and “The Hammer” to pounding, techno-splattered climaxes that raises the collective pulse rate through the roof. Exhilarated, she freestyles a polemic speech about how we all need to have more empathy and less greed. She’s right and shines with it. She closes with a slower number, one about loneliness, paraphrasing Charles Bukowski, rapping out, “Find the thing you love and do it ‘til it kills you,” and the words sweep us along, so that when she’s suddenly gone the crowd is momentarily bereft, before the slow rise of mumbling chat begins. “That was a-MAY-zing”, “She’s something else”. Everyone is buzzed by her contagious spirit, intelligence and energy, aware they’ve just caught something a bit special.

Overleaf: Watch the video for "Circles"

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