Kate Tempest had been informed just hours before the set, that a friend had died. She made this clear in a short address to the Leeds crowd before beginning. And while it was uncomfortable to watch as Tempest fought back tears, comfort is not a feeling the South London wordsmith ever hopes to stir anyway. Her artistry is in resuscitating all those uncomfortable emotions – the type we subconsciously sedate in the chaos of the 21st century. She pleads with us in fact, to “wake up and love more”.
Tempest’s obvious grief did not dampen her determination to spread this message. It provoked it. She personified on that stage a true marvel of human nature. Perseverance. “It’s important we talk about these things,” said Tempest. “Because they happen.” And following a quick reminder to not lose focus through a mobile phone, Tempest delved into her performance.
Tempest began with brand new material from her upcoming third album, The Book of Traps and Lessons, set for release on June 14. More intimate than ever before, these tracks seem less attached to a narrative and appear to peek into the psyche of Tempest herself.
The multi-Mercury prize nominee’s delivery was direct – every word clear and commanding. Her eyes seemed to meet and hold each person in the crowd at one time or another. A harrowing new track discussed the thoughts that run through Tempest’s mind as she watches tired faces pass her by each day. It was following this she noticeably looked close to tears before pacing toward the back of the stage. One deep breath and she returned to face the crowd, determined to begin the next half of the set.
When touring Let Them Eat Chaos in 2016 – Tempest played the album full. To chop and change between albums, poems and spoken word for this show must have taken careful consideration. Despite this, the set curation was sublime with snippets from ‘Brand New Ancients’ weaving perfectly with lines from her poetry collection, Hold Your Own.
The political firecracker, ‘Europe is Lost’ ignited an eruption of applause. In fact, any reference to her distaste of politicians warranted a surge of activity in the crowd. Not surprising really.
The new single ‘Firesmoke’ concluded the set. The track, a fully-fledged love poem is less bonfire, and more crackling camp fire. It is a softer, more intimate sermon for the poet who usually finds inspiration in ancient stories or the everyday odysseys of urban life.
With a swift thank you and a bow, Tempest left the stage and embraced her stage partner who (masterfully) controlled the sounds and kept a caring eye on her throughout the set.
Even if just for a fleeting time after the performance, Kate Tempest causes your mind to stir. She has the rare talent to encourage thought towards the bigger picture beginning with yourself and your own actions. And by god we need some more of that going on in 2019.