(Credit: Martin Schumann / Wikipedia)


The view from Far Out: Kate Tempest live at Festival des Libertés, Brussels

Kate Tempest is one of the most captivating British artists of the moment. The English writer, poet, playwright, and rapper made an enthralling performance at the “Festival des Libertés” (Freedoms Festival) in Brussels.

The Festival, known for “mobilising all forms of expression in order to offer an overview of the state of rights and freedoms around the world, to point out lurking dangers, to encourage resistance and promote solidarity,” matched Kate Tempest’s concert fitted perfectly with the festival’s spirit.

With more intimate access, less hip-hop but more spoken words, the show was like a bubble bursting into molten magma. You had to look at it, you have to listen to what Kate Tempest has to say to us, especially in these times when people are confused and political ideologies do not help us to dream for a better future.

“Europe is lost, America lost, London lost / Still we are claiming victory / All that is meaningless rules / We have learned nothing from history.”

With these words, Kate Tempest kicked the concert off on Friday evening.

During the first part of the show, we listened to a selection of songs from her first works. In Marshall Law, we are reminded of the storyline around two young Londoners who are lost in work, drugs, and each other. Up next, always from debut Everybody Down (2014), Kate Tempest sang The Beigeness where she addresses those who wanted to leave their dreams behind and settle down: House, garden, tree, baby… Their life is “beige”, meaningless. 

Then followed all tracks of the new album The Book of Traps and Lesson (produced by Rick Rubin) in chronological order. Admittedly, the profusion of images, realities depicted with her songs flawlessly complements the profound subject, be it urbanity, social confinement, loneliness or racism. Already from the first tones of Thirsty, a change of style can be noticed. Tempest’s voice is made softer, the groove slower but warmer and drums are attenuated. She no longer talks about others’ lives but her songs rather focus on her experiences. Her days of parties and hangovers, of loneliness and obsessive love, lie behind her.

The concert seemed to last forever, the audience petrified and hypnotised in equal measure. Her capacity to keep the public’s ears glued to her long spoken words is channelled directly into everyone’s mind and heart. Its brilliance, which squeals at night, is a sign of its powerful vital momentum.

Tempest runs back and forth, almost incessantly, looks at everyone in the audience once intense is her gaze, but warm. Her voice is loud, clear and at the same time delicate, but does not hide winks of anger while she raps about the abysses of capitalism, about the despots in the world, about racism and violence. All of these fabulous compositions are accompanied by ass-kicking breaks and wobble bass sounds played by her fellow DJ at the turntables and synths Hinako Omori.

“Your loneliness is the symptom, not the sickness,” the end is as sharp as one of the rhymes of Kate’s last song; “There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces.” When the lights come on, and we look around, we can only agree with Kate Tempest. A great artist.

Kate Tempest setlist

‘Europe is Lost’
‘We Die’
‘Marshall Law’
‘Ketamine For Breakfast’
‘Tunnel Vision’
‘The Beigeness’ ‘Tunnel Vision’ (outro)
‘Keep Moving Don’t Move’
‘Brown Eyed Man’
‘Three Sided Coin’
‘I Trap You’
‘All Humans Too Late’
‘Hold Your Own’
‘Holy Elixir’
‘People’s Faces’