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Kate Tempest – O2 Academy,Oxford, 7th October 2014

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On a wet, windy Friday night Kate Tempest swept  into Oxford  on the first leg of her Every Down album tour which was nominated in this year’s Mercury Music Prize. Tempest is more readily known on the poetry scene (she won the Ted Hughes prize for poetry in 2012) for trademark powerful performances of her bleak yet tender, urban tales, so Tempest going back to her roots as a rapper came as a bit of a surprise. Indeed, upon talking with a group of young women in the box office queue we all made firm friends by discussing how blown away we were, when we saw Tempest rap at an astonished Chuck D at a press conference.

The upstairs sweat box of the O2 was packed with fans and, as I jostled my way to the front centre of the stage I chatted with the fans. Some had seen her before performing her theatre pieces and slam events. I was surprised to learn the power of a Mercury nomination quite a few punters, like the dude at the front who kindly took care of my coat, were unaware of her poetry work. Hence the crowd was a mismatch of people of all ages waiting for Tempest to start the set with hushed anticipation, and after the industrial hip hop of local band ‘Death of Hi-Fi‘, the room went quiet as the band started to set up.

First we saw the drums, then the keyboards, mixer desk and then, more drums as the backing singer started to sway to the other musicians warming up, then they stopped as Tempest strode onto the stage holding a bottle, sweeping back the trademark wayward blonde hair with a cherubic grin. The crowd greeted her with shouts and claps as she gave a massive grin, a quick swig from a bottle, nodded at the band and launched into ‘Marshal Law’.

Tempest rapped the first verse without music, then the drummers dropped the beat which kicked everything off, the crowd started to bounce and Tempest seemed to feed of the vibe of the crowd and the harsh back beat of the band. Throughout the performance neither Tempest or the band missed a word or a beat, suggesting that a rigorous rehearsal schedule had been in play, the band were tight and displayed a united front, they all seemed to be having a blast. Tempest worked the crowd and remarked it was the first time she’d heard her lyrics sung back to her, as the couple next to me cheered as they appeared to sing every single word back to the stage.

As Tempest moved through the songs, I kind of lost track of which one we were on, this was more down to me reading the lyrics before hand rather than listening to the album, I lost any clever thoughts I may have had for the review as I lost myself in the euphoria of the crowd. Also half way through Tempest kicked into ‘Chicken’ which sent the drummers into over- time delivering hard, brutal beats designed to stimulate the pituitary gland into adrenalin overload which skilfully conjures up the emotions of the one of the protagonists from this chapter  Of Everybody Down songs (the album is essentially a rapped version of a story, the songs are chapters). It was then that crowd couldn’t resist anymore and just let go, hands in the air, dancing wildly to the infectious beats. Tempest closed the show with the tender ‘Theme from Becky’, which showcased that her ability to merge her sweet voice with her rap seamlessly, as she took the deafening applause from the audience, she looked like she’d had a blast, the audience certainly had.

I must admit I’ve never gone out of my way to see Tempest, although I admire her work there always seemed to be something missing for me, but that night I found it. Tempest is an exceptional performer and, armed with her words and beats she is irresistible and like her name she’ll go down like a storm wherever she goes.


 

” Everybody Down” Available to buy at Ninjatune

“Everybody Down” Tour dates here

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