LIVE: Kate Tempest – The Deaf Institute, Manchester
It’s been quite a year for hip-hop artist come performance poet Kate Tempest, who not only became the youngest ever recipient of the Ted Hughes Prize – causing waves in literary circles – but also received a Mercury Prize nomination for her album Everybody Down in 2014.
The ceremony a couple of weeks ago ended with Edinburgh trio Young Fathers getting the scoop – an act who we caught play a sparse show at Manchester Deaf Institute earlier this year.
Tonight, it’s back to the same venue, but the scene couldn’t be more different with a packed-out crowd who have assembled early to witness Tempest’s infectious and thought provoking brand of spoken word and charged hip-hop. Considering this is her first headline tour, it’s amazing how quickly things have gathered pace.
The choice of support is inspired, with local comedic poet Thick Richard almost guaranteed to go down a storm. His quintessentially northern combination of self-loathing and (extremely) dry wit is like John Cooper Clarke had he started out trying to make his art heard above the barrage of immediately outdated content and passing fads of the 21st Century.
At times, the similarity is overwhelmingly obvious, for example ‘God Hates Stockport’ harnessing the same disdain of surroundings as Clarke’s ‘Evidently Chickentown’, but Richard is a champion of a quick-fire style of delivery and semantic exploration that receives a rapturous reception. As much as he tries to use his set to portray himself and his work as something unpleasant, a warm atmosphere fills the room and the audience are in just the right kind of mood for the main event.
Tempest’s four-piece backing band – complete with Everybody Down’s producer Dan Carey – take to the stage unaccompanied to start with. The show kicks off with a sharp shot of electronica that builds up a frenzied buzz of anticipation. As Tempest arrives, it explodes and despite the whole process being somewhat orchestrated, she looks a bit shocked by the sheer scale of the adulation that greets her.
The backing track is then hushed and Tempest welcomes the audience into her world. ‘Marshall Law’ is a kind of intro to the narrative of Everybody Down – a record that provides the soundtrack to a stage show of the same name.
Between songs, her interaction with the crowd is probably just as engaging as the music itself. She is as much a guerilla-style motivational speaker as she is an entertainer, such is her passion, radiating an articulate confidence that is a shining example for any young females with a genuine desire to share their talents in an intelligent and stimulating way.
She’s enthusiastic and excitable on a scale that is just too real to hide. Despite bringing up some very serious issues, there is a huge beam of a smile on her face all the way through which rubs off on the sold-out crowd.
With Cary pulling the strings on synth, the house-infused musical side of the record is pushed right to the front. The warped effects on Tempest’s vocal causes the true genius of her lyrics go unappreciated at times, but the fact that some in the audience clearly seem to know every word anyway means it matters not.
“This is the one that they play on the radio sometimes”, Tempest jokes as she launches into recent single ‘Circles’. The reaction is huge and every bit deserved. It is a long while since we have experienced a musician live who makes what is traditionally a confrontational kind of music, but is so humble and grateful in her personality.
She’s far too exuberant to take on the sort of moody gangsta rap facade that many a chart-topper has fallen foul of – a factor that enhances her already swelling likability. Throughout the evening, those who have bought tickets are mutually thanked for their support by the band just as vocally as the room’s reaction at the end of each song.
As the septet leave the stage, they depart with a theatre-style bow that signals the end of a night the has felt full of occasion from the off. The time has finally come for this refreshing, inspiring and infinitely imaginative artist to share her work on the scale it deserves. Stunning.