When Kate Tempest enters the stage, her eyes are stern and serious. This is a woman on a mission, not only to deliver a good show but to give what needs to be heard and felt. From the stage design – a red moon, a microphone, a candle beside the keyboard station – to the sound, there is nothing trivial taking away the attention from the words. Opening with Europe Is Lost, We Die and even older songs like The Beigeness seem like an icebreaker needed in every conversation to open up to deeper, more intricate themes. Everyone in the room is invited to this dialogue with the London artist. Something that is all too often dismissed by musicians who perform for, not with their audience.
The mythological traditions Kate Tempest draws on in her lyrics and poetry are omnipresent at her shows. Humans have always gathered to listen to music together, celebrate the joy of connectivity and discuss the important matters of the world which take their effects on each life. We need to evaluate our own experience to understand those around us – and Kate Tempest makes her audience aware of this, “Thank you for being here, I know you all came tonight and brought your own day and feelings with you”, she says after the first few tracks. It is an acknowledgement of the individual who chooses to become part of a body of people, and to make her the medium which translates the personal to the collective.
When the piano intro of Thirsty, the first track of the new album starts, the energy in the room is distilled and the focus is not distracted by friends and phones anymore. The crowd begins swaying to the lyrics, some with their eyes fixed on the stage, others keep them closed. Watching Kate Tempest embodying the things she speaks off, lines from her poetry collection Hold Your Own come to mind:
“How many yous will you carry,
Weeping and desperate to marry?
How many yous will you churn out?
Turn out the light for the night.
She has burned out but she’ll be alright.”
(‘The woman the boy became’)
We all carry multitudes and the poet is showing hers to us. During Brown Eyed Man, her face is closed up, her posture crumbled as if she is re-living painful memories which are running through her mind. Firesmoke is full of twinkling pride and desire, eyes around me are lightening up with hers. Between some of the songs she steps further away from the audience and exchanges silence with Hinako Omori at the keyboard to make sure, she is ok as well. The word ‘empathy’ gets thrown around a lot these days but this one, between the women on stage and the crowd, is not a pretence.
There is a knowledge in each person that recognises truth when presented with it even if unsure what it means for ourselves. Kate Tempest manages to convey truth in a way that is not patronising but respectful and heartfelt. This impression peaks with the last song People’s Faces. It is an equilibrium of seeing and feeling seen in places which generally exude anonymity like venues, cities, or the internet. It can be overwhelming to be alive but it is worse when we are lonely so the cheering when the show is over and everyone raises their voices is not only a celebration of Kate Tempest but of the power of togetherness she reminded us of.
All Photos by Anna-Katharina Stich