Kate Tempest wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. She raps, spits soliloquies and slams poetry. As an artist, she isn’t going to smash commercial radio. Even independent community radios mightn’t play her. And for an artist like her, I’m sure she’d be perfectly fine with that. But based on the performance I viewed as part of her spot on the Sydney Festival bill, anyone who isn’t into what she is doing, well, they’re missing out something severe.
On a day where Sydney peaked at a bullshit hot 40 degrees, only to end in a torrential downpour, Tempest took to the Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent stage and produced pure fire. I honestly don’t have words to describe what I saw tonight. I, along with the majority of the crowd, stood in utter awe. I’d seen some artists smash through soliloquies before, but never to this extreme; that magnitude. It was flawless. It was smart. It was pure class.
Tempest, backed brilliantly by a pair of musicians on synths, keys and drums, played a set containing tracks mainly off her debut LP Everybody Down, with closer “Europe Is Lost” being the only non-album track to make an appearance. Opening up with her biggest track “The Biegeness”, it was a solid thirty minutes before anything other than lyrics and poems were spoken. ‘I’m a little overwhelmed,’ Tempest said as she spoke about how her and her band were as far from their homes as possible.
While the banter was light on, the respect in the room for the artist on stage definitely made up for it. Tempest wasn’t scared to get her point across. While her debut album is most definitely a concept album, her acapella poems were next level. Moving away from the characters, she based tracks “Marshall Law”, “The Truth”, “The Biegeness”, “Theme From Becky” and “Lonely Daze” on, her peak moment throughout the set was definitely the surplus seven minute message she put across on “Europe Is Lost”. Touching on concepts and providing commentary on issues within society such as racism, elitism, cultural and social divide, and the populace’s pure obsession with social media, Tempest absolutely slayed. Another stand out moment came from the extremely danceable “Circles”.
Based on the performance Kate Tempest put forward tonight, she’s more than entitled to say what she wants. She called out the sole punter in the crowd for filming her: ‘Just live in the moment, man. With me, with us.’ I could easily have watched her do her thing for a while longer, but it was old mate and his wife leaving the tent ahead of me who put it best: ‘In 40 years of gigs, I’ve never seen anything like that. That was incredible.’
Yes mate, it truly was.
Photo: Jamie Williams / Sydney Festival