Live Review/ Kate Tempest @ O2 Academy


By Bethany Marris, Deputy Digital Editor

British contemporary poet and rap artist Kate Tempest brings her fusion of socio-political critique and whirring electronica to Bristol's O2 Academy.

‘It’s been a long day, I know’, uttered Kate Tempest, reassuring an eager, sardine-packed crowd as she launched into ‘Picture a Vacuum’ on Sunday night at the O2 Academy. Boasting the trades of author, singer-songwriter, poet, and playwright, it’s not surprising that the multi-hyphen artist’s show sold out months before her Bristol tour date.

As the opening track bled into whirring beat of ‘Lionmouth Door Knocker’ it became apparent that Kate was set to take the audience on a narrative journey. Playing her critically acclaimed 2016 project, Let them Eat Chaos, in its chronological entirety, the artist gradually introduced us to seven disconnected characters, whose lives the album delves into. Indeed, this isn’t typically the way concerts proceed, nor is Let Them Eat Chaos even Tempest’s most recent work, yet to fragment the record’s carefully structured story through playing songs haphazardly would’ve been simply wrong.

One particular moment of potency came as the artist rapped over the haunting instrumental of ‘Europe is Lost’. Initially penned in 2015, the bleak Brexit landscape we know today was merely a twinkle in the eye of the contemporary Tory government, yet Tempest’s chanting of ‘the toil, the toil, I can’t see an ending at all’ evidently resonated with a crowd of shaking heads and disapproving scowls.

The album’s closing track, ’Tunnel Vision’, concluded the first segment of Tempest’s performance, and in this a hearty plea for our ‘loved ones to love more’. Finale-style cheers and whistles from her fans overwhelmingly suggested that no one would’ve disputed this marking the show’s end, nor would they have felt short changed. However, Kate proceeded to perform for another half-hour, showcasing some of her more recent material from 2019’s The Book Of Traps And Lessons, a blistering critique of our capitalist society.

Against the backdrop of a scarlet sun, cladded in all back and joined by a one-woman band, Tempest’s performance rested solely upon her emotive bars and raw enunciation. The refreshingly eclectic audience served only to reflect the mass that Tempest’s work speaks to; from underage drinkers to burnt-out care workers. ‘To the hopeless romantics...the broken, the stranded’. Through her 2012 career-catalysing poem ‘Renegade’, the artist established that she doesn’t ‘care about celebrity’, only ‘integrity’, and these are sentiments that continue to infuse through both her work and her modest stage presence today. As she ‘rolls smokes’ and drinks from ‘jam jars of wine’, it becomes easy to take her fierce sincerity for granted, yet we must be careful not to lose sight of Kate’s unwavering wisdom, empathy and unique grasp upon reality.

Featured Image: Dominique Vrignaud/ Flickr