It had been a rather hot, sweaty day, and the city of Edinburgh had swelled to twice its normal size, as is the case with the festival season in August. Recent years have seen much more ‘Contemporary’ music (across the genres) appear at the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF). Last year saw the Leith Theatre pressed back into service, and it’s a suitable venue for Kate Tempest to make her EIF debut. It is pretty well packed, and hot and stuffy, and as I fear a panic attack coming on, I wonder if I should stay…
While her third album may not have received quite the praise in certain quarters that it deserves, frankly, The Book Of Traps And Lessons still burns with the fury and passion that her other works display. Opening with ‘Europe Is Lost’ the lyrics are so spot on for what the world has been through in the last decade:
“Europe is lost, America lost, London lost
Still we are clamouring victory
All that is meaningless rules
We have learned nothing from history”
Though some of her work has been performed with a full band, tonight she is backed by just one person, Clare Uchima, mixing live and on keyboards. The power is no less, this is a compelling performance. I mention her other work, her poetry, novels and plays – this is where some people wonder where she fits in. As a member of the audience, it may be tempting to wonder what this is – rap gig, poetry recital, rave? It’s all of these things and more. Sure I can’t keep track of every word, but it doesn’t matter. We are called here to witness.
Behind her there is a huge circle – gone by the time of the Neneh Cherry gig the following night – that is one of the few things on the stage. No other backdrop, no dancers, is this a sun, a spotlight? There’s so much to focus on and lose yourself in here, and indeed find yourself too. The tracks from her latest album retain the passion, power, fury and hope that has marked her work so far.
It’s here, the pain of and agony of ‘Brown Eyed Man,’ trying to manage the panic in ‘Keep Moving Don’t Move’ and the almost hymn-like album closer of ‘Peoples Faces:’
“Cause I can see your faces
There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces.”
Having taken her bow and left to thunderous applause, she eventually returns. She tells us that she doesn’t like encores as she feels she’s already said everything she has to say and she doesn’t like false endings but she wants to thank us.
No…thank you! She may not be a new name anymore, but she is such a fantastic talent, and it is clear she has so much more to say.
…and yes, I’m very glad that I stayed.