Kate Tempest, rapper, poet, playwright and novelist played her second album “Let Them Eat Chaos” on her home turf in Brockley, south east London last night. Playing at the vintage Rivoli Ballroom, a place full of retro charm, her set was anything but cosy and looking to the past. Stunningly contemporary, Tempest sought to capture a diverse and unsettling view of the modern world.
Beginning with a rumination on how Mother Earth might view her struggling, wayward children, initially Tempest’s outlook was global. Considering the threats of global warming, terrorism and shallow consumer culture, she observes “America is Lost. Europe is Lost”. Then she intoned “London is Lost”.
Her focus then centred upon her beloved capital city. Drawing detailed character vignettes, each song is a perfect portrait, with warts, humanity and psyche exposed in a manner worthy of Rembrandt. The exhausted carer, home after a double shift; the Manchester boy done good, leading a successful life in PR; the girl who simply can’t switch her mind off; Tempest portrays a series of characters with one terrible thing in common; insomnia. All are awake within metres of each other at 4:18am. Precisely.
Each character’s inner thoughts are presented as rapped soliloquies; fear, alienation, resentment, doubt, tiredness are among their emotions. The changing face of the capital is highlighted as a London girl faces moving away from her roots because of rising rents and gentrification who ponders what it means to leave her home city for good.
The denouement is the coming together of Tempest’s seven disparate souls and a rallying cry for people to come together and share more of their humanity, to show more love, to break away from computer screens and actually connect in the real world. Her fear is without this real connection, real interaction, we will all simply drown in urban chaos.
Tempest’s poetry is fluent, descriptive and passionate. Her delivery is urgent, matched by her band’s harsh, rapid and forceful electronic and beat led sound. If Tempest is aggressive, it is because she genuinely worries about the London of 2016 and wants to bring us back from the brink. Will we listen?
Kate Tempest’s energising performance was filmed last night for a BBC2 programme due for transmission on 1st October 2016 at 9pm. Watch and be dazzled. Poetry can absolutely be about daffodils dancing in the breeze. Tempest shows us that maybe those daffodils might be in a window box on a sill of a south London tower block. Relevant, lyrical and accessible, Tempest is a major talent of both literature and rap.
Kate Tempest, Rivoli Ballroom, Brockley, London 20 September 2016
for more info visit www.katetempest.co.uk