Kate Tempest - O2 Ritz, Manchester 07/12/2016

Kate Tempest – O2 Ritz, Manchester 07/12/2016

Kate Tempest rightly said earlier this year that “you can’t tell a story without it feeling political”.  Her second album released last August, Let Them Eat Chaos, exemplifies this.  Inspired by the likes of both William Blake and Wu-Tang Clan, Tempest has been a life-long devotee to the power of words.  A poet in the making from a young age, she involved herself in South East London’s music community and was part of the short-lived but successful Sound of Rum.  Following that, and an increasing number of spoken word gigs, she slowly but surely found herself at the attention of a range of critics, hailing her as a vital voice of this generation.  Accolades to her name include the Ted Hughes Award, a Mercury Prize nomination and a commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Let Them Eat Chaos tour in support of the album’s release is her biggest UK headline tour yet.  As the crowd gathers in Manchester’s 1500-capacity venue O2 Ritz, support band Boxed In provide some enjoyable synth-rock while a young poet from local collective Young Identity further helps to warm up the audience.  When Tempest walks on with her three-piece band, it’s visible that she can’t quite believe the sheer amount of noise the crowd is making just for her.  She’s quick to tell us what’s about to happen: a run through of Let Them Eat Chaos in order, explaining that feels the most honest way to perform it.  She also encourages us not to use our phones to take pictures or videos (“just because no one on Instagram knows you were here, you were here”) which lays the foundations to be truly engulfed by the performance.

Following this, you could hear a pin drop in the crowd’s immediate silence during the first few acapella bars of ‘Picture A Vacuum’.  The intensity rises, however, as she reaches songs like ‘Ketamine For Breakfast’, confessing “yeah my future is bright/but my past tryna ruin me”.  The infinitely quotable ‘Europe Is Lost’ magnificently sums up virtually every problem facing modern life; dangers of nationalism, excess and consumerism, structural oppression, criminalisation of the marginalised, individualism and selfie culture.

The crowd is made up of particularly devoted fans, clinging on to her every word.  They yell out supportively whenever she hits the nail on the head so perfectly.  As ‘Tunnel Vision’ brings things to a close, the cheers are more frequent in response to lines about Western hypocrisy and a broken economic system.  But what’s clever about Tempest is that she does this thoughtfully and in plain English, not through a barrage of bandwagon left-wing academia.  ‘Tunnel Vision’ doesn’t end like it does on the record: instead it ascends into a faster beat correlating with unbearable flashing lights.

As she comes back for an encore her modesty is evident again saying, “it feels a bit weird this, me going off and you cheering, then me coming back – who are you making that noise for?”  Whether she likes it or not, we continue to devour her words as she plays one more song accompanied by the record’s producer Dan Carey.  It’s a slow simple piano-driven tune that gives the show perfect closure.

Kate Tempest is on tour until 11th December .  She is the curator of next year’s Brighton Festival.


Photo courtesy of Kate Tempest Facebook Page

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