As me and my friend sat on the bus approaching town, we were chatting about the gig, this prompted two guys sat across from us to ask if we were going to see Kate Tempest. They said they were going their primarily for the support Loyle Carner – who I admit not hearing of until that night – they talked about how he was at the forefront of the new up and coming UK hip-hop scene, that has been so over shadowed by its American counter part for many years. This built my excitement for the gig even more knowing that not only would we be seeing a really unique and interesting gig from Ms Tempest but were also in for a treat in terms of her support.
We got to The Kazimier just as Loyle Carner was about to start so there was cheering and clapping as we made our way to the small but cool lower part of the dance floor. Positioning ourselves front and centre for an act, despite not knowing what to expect, could spell for an awkward half hour. Luckily the young rapper and his producer and mate Chris (Rebel Kleff), quelled any fears of a bad set with the first line. The diverse crowed, from students to grandparents, were soon bouncing in time to his lyrics.
He was the perfect warm up to Kate, and already had the crowd on side by sporting his Liverpool football shirt and rapping about Steven Gerrard. He had a rapport with the crowd, cracking jokes, showing genuine pleasure when the crowd cheered, which is always nice to see. His poetry, however, was the highlight of his set. One in particular was a poem about the little sister he never had, the words spoke of a longing for a love that just wasn’t there, it made the packed out venue fall silent. With an embarrassed half smile, after the room erupted into applause, he changed gear seamlessly into his final song for the evening, that we were warned needed some crowd participation. His likeable nature meant that the whole crowd got involved rapping along to the chorus and increasing volume when it was our turn, it left the whole crowd upbeat and excited for Kate Tempest up next.
A little time before Katemaking her way to the stage gave me the chance to have a look around The Kazimier, and take advantage of their sofas up on the balcony next to their piano-come-cocktail bar. The crowd broke out into applause and whooping when the band made there way onto the stage, however there was one distinct figure missing from the group. Regardless they started playing building up the suspense for the arrival of one Kate – who emerged walking down the steps to the side of the stage met by an even louder welcome than that given to the band, and the music cut out as she got the mic. She began singing to first verse to her opening track of her album, ‘Everybody Down‘, ‘Marshall Law‘. I say singing it was more like reciting poetry, without any music it was so much more deep, there was more focus on the words being said and had the crowd chuckling to themselves. An excellent start, when the second verse started the rest of the band joined in and everyone got to dancing, despite the lack of space. This upbeat nature continued with ‘Lonely Daze‘, despite the name and the lyrics the song itself is fast paced and almost impossible not to move to.
Her album is a narrative, a story of the lives of young people growing up today in London and about the struggles of real life. This was the message for the whole night, that we are living in ‘dark times’ and we all need to help each other. The South London left wing poet, lived up to her title with impassioned and at times frantic speeches and pleas to the audience, about how we should not be ignorant to what is going on all around us just because we don’t understand it and that we just should just be empathetic and caring for each other. These semi-scripted outbursts that were met by cheers and noises of agreement and were intermingled with her poetry and other songs.
When she played my favourite of hers, ‘Circles‘, with the chorus “I go round in circles, Not graceful, not like dancers, Not neatly, not like compass and pencil, More like a dog on a lead, going mental!”, the whole crowd were getting down and joining in. By the time she played her last song, a heartstrings-pulling tune filled with the pain of losing someone, everyone fell silent and even I got a little choked up. However, she reminded us that we all had that love inside us, it doesn’t go anywhere, and you can focus it on one person or share it with the world. Something she wanted us to take away from the gig, I hope many did.
As she walked off the stage there were chants for her to return and play another. She did and despite not having any other songs to play for us, there were requests from the audience for her 75 minute poem ‘Brand New Ancients‘ and Kate very happily agreed to perform it – or a reduced version – Expressing her joy at having ‘a poetry request!’ This poem filled the room with a euphoric feeling and left us with spine tingles as we made out way out of the gig.
This night showed me that poetry isn’t just something from 300 years ago, that I was forced to analyse in GCSE English but when written about something important to the poet, performed the way it was intended and about something that resonated with the person hearing, it can be so much than that. The night wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, with lots of poetry and haunting vocals mixed with political rants and jokes, but was brilliant in its own way – Loyle Carner has definitely found himself a new fan and Kate Tempest has impressed me even further.