Kate Tempest, poet, rapper and archetypal modern day Londoner came to Manchester last night at Gorilla on Whitworth Street West. I have previously seen Tempest perform her Brand New Ancients poem at the Contact Theatre and this was a performance of her new Everybody Down album.
I confess I am a fan. Tempest is a genius of articulate naïveté. And she is a cracking storyteller. Musically this album has nothing of real note yet it is in the lyrics that the audience finds the real joy. My favourite part of the evening was undoubtedly when the performance was stripped right back to her performance poetry.
The curious aspect of the event was the assembled audience. Here we were, the beats of dual percussion musicians on stage and the rapped lyrics about Becky and a drug deal gone wrong, all being witnessed by a room full of people where I suspect the most common occupation was General Practitioner (I say that as a middle-aged, middle class lawyer).
As Tempest moved into a high tempo piece she invited us to party. And so the crowd, where heavy rimmed, Dom Joly style glasses where de rigueur, began to dance in a slightly awkward display that was vaguely reminiscent of Byker Grove. As the performer came to the front of the stage and told of grimy, lovelorn angst, the audience looked back….through the screens of their Samsung Galaxy Notes as they used the digital zoom to sharpen the image for their Facebook account. Or just had their GoPro on a selfie-stick. Street.
Tempest lamented a modern society where we live in a bubble of television to an audience desperate to upload the words to YouTube. She promised to be our voice against Islamaphobia, anti-semitism and hatred although she had no idea what she wanted to say about it, beyond the fact it is wrong. And the audience cheered. I suspect they would have cheered if she had offered to be our voice against littering the streets, inconsiderate parking in Chorlton and wearing socks with sandals.
She really is a marvel when telling a story. An ex tempore inspirational speaker she is not. If she has a message it can be told in the lyrics and the words, like the fantastic 13 Commandments that she treated us to as an encore.
If you are unfamiliar with her work go find it online. She is a rapper, poet, playwright and novelist. I suspect you can find plenty of it on YouTube…..