With a stick of incense and removal of her shoes the London born poet, novelist and rapper Kate Tempest took the stage of LPR for only her 2nd time in NYC. The first was a few years ago where she played Mercury Lounge and Rough Trade supporting her startling debut record Everybody Down. Those shows were small and for those in attendance (myself included), it was an eye opening explosive announcement of a remarkable new voice.
This show, the last of her current tour, was in support of her most recent record Let Them Eat Chaos which she performs in it’s entirety. Like the previous album, its songs are character-driven stories though this one being a much darker affair. Told through the eyes of 7 individuals all living on the same London block all dealing with their various situations at 4:18am. Tempest begins by asking the audience to put down their phones and travel on a journey with her (and for the entire show this was the case. Not a phone went up from my vantage point). From there she launches into the spoken word first track off the album “Picture a Vacuum.” Stalking the stage, her 3 piece band then kicks in with the post dubstep electronic “Lionmouth Door Knocker,” Tempest pleading over and over “Is anybody else awake?, Will it ever be day again?”
While her words flowing in rapid-fire bursts on record might not be easy to decipher for non-anglophiles, live she takes the time to enunciate and stretch out certain phrases for maximum impact. Such as on the dark boom bap standout track “Europe is Lost.” At once, a tale about Ester, a career working nights worried about a post brexit Europe, expands into a dystopian diatribe. Juxtaposing a world where the “wrongs of our past have resurfaced,” with the “Bored of it all Generation and their Saccharine ballads and selfies, and selfies, and selfies.” Pointing to the audience and repeating the words over and over like a mantra.
50 minutes later comes the hypnotic skronk of the final track “Tunnel Vision,” a plea to forget “the myth of the individual,” which “has left us disconnected, lost and pitiful” and for her “loved ones to wake up and love more.” A huge hug from her drummer and a message to the audience that there will be no encore, this magnificent show comes to an end. In the same week, the masses traveled to a desert to once again “Costco” their musical landscape, it’s intimate shows like this (one of the best I’ve seen this year so far) that make you realize the special power of live music. Kate Tempest a certain hero for our times for sure and I can only hope it won’t be as long a wait to have such an urgent and important artist back in our midst.
Opening the show was Flatbush, Brooklyn rapper Latasha Alcindor otherwise known as LA (a chant she had the audience repeat over and over) Perfectly paired with the headliner, LA’s raps and spoken word interludes spoke to the ills of the gentrification of her hometown as well as the ongoing offenses dealt to the African American community at large. It was a spirited and joyous performance.
Article/Photos: PSquared Photography