02 Institute, Birmingham
On Sunday morning I read with horror that a revered songwriter named Kate had inexplicably praised Theresa May and the current conservative government.
That revered Kate is usually seen as quite smart with her singles based on classic novels, conceptual albums and lyrics pored over as if they were works of poetry. Yet, by saying that our elitist leaders are 'the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time' Kate Bush had confused and disappointed her audience by being so divorced from their reality.
On Sunday evening I was in the presence of another literary songwriter named Kate who also happens to be a celebrated poet and novelist. But unlike Bush, Kate Tempest isn’t likely to be calling the government 'wonderful' any time soon....
'They abduct kids and fuck the heads of dead pigs' (from Europe is Lost), is one of the most furious and provocative lines from her extraordinary album 'Let them eat Chaos.' Tonight, Tempest is performing ‘Chaos' (which she describes as a 'long poem') in its entirety.
Tempest shuffles on stage. She is friendly, chatty and sweary, she praises the warmth of the Brummie accent and asks that mobile phones be switched off as they're not on in keeping with the communal message of the work she’s about to perform.What follows is an absorbingly powerful tale of a moment in time; a street full of strangers churning over through their furies, failures and frustrations at a lonely time in the morning before the dawn.
Tempest's delivery gets under the skin of her cast of characters, you believe in their stories, they feel real. The show really soars when the narrator brings the strangers together, sets their collapsing lives in the context of a corrupt and callous world and then implores us to all to ‘Wake up and love more.’ Our mobile phones are still in our pockets; we are all sharing this moment, with the characters, with Kate and with each other.
The throbbing, pulsating sounds of Tempest's band perfectly soundtrack this drama. The swirling sounds of 'Breaks' brilliantly heightens the tension of Kate’s narrative. Having finished her story, Tempest sways to the doomy electronic beats of 'Tunnel Vision' before bringing the show to a mesmerizing conclusion.
The audience is enraptured by the experience. ‘Let them eat Chaos’ may be one of the albums of the year, but it is here, in the live environment that it crackles vividly into life. The crowds files out, many repeating the words that the other Kate had so inaccurately used: ‘wonderful... it’s the best thing that’s happened to us in a long time'
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