With Theresa May setting the country’s terror alert to ‘Critical’ earlier in the day, armed police paroled around Brighton train station at the start of the bank holiday weekend. Half a mile down the road, Kate Tempest took to the stage for the closing show of the city’s festival in what turned out to be a triumphant display of human enjoyment and togetherness under the backdrop of a nation still in mourning.
The South Londoner’s lyricisms have always conveyed political significance, but her wordings felt like they carried ever greater weight on Friday evening. For the last month, she has been the guest director for the festival and with it came a manifesto to make the arts part of everyday life. Tonight’s show was a celebration of this as she stormed through a set which included recent record Let Them Eat Chaos in its entirety along with various poems and spoken word pieces. The arts can be a form of escapism and Kate gave the sold out crowd 90 minutes of exactly that.
“The arts should be social, not elitist. They should be part of our everyday life. They should be in our communities, not only on elevated platforms or behind red velvet ropes. Music, literature, theatre, film – these things are so important, they bring us together into the same space, they give us ourselves, they bring us to life, they beam our humanity back to us in all its hideous beauty. And in these times, with the fear spreading everywhere and the divisions between us deepening daily, we desperately need to remember that we are all part of the same thing. Nothing does that for me more profoundly or joyously than standing in the crowd watching a gig, or a play, or a painting. It’s like a little victory you get to keep forever. I want us to offer that experience to everyone,” Tempest explained as she burst into ‘Picture a Vacuum’ in almost a capella style for the first five minutes.
“An endless and unmoving blackness/ Peace, or the absence at least, of terror/ I see, and amongst all this space,” she described, as each of her subtle lines carried greater emotional attachment in the aftermath of the Manchester attacks. The three-piece band then burst into life in the form of ‘Lionmouth Door Knocker’. Tempest is more than capable of holding a room on her own but, led by producer Dan Carey the electric drummer and two keyboards, create mesmerising soundscapes that manifest into the perfect backdrop for Tempest’s urban commentaries.
More than just an album, Let Them Eat Chaos is an epic tale of seven characters told in rhyme and short stories: “It’s 4.18am and these flawed people are awake. Somewhat inevitably, a supernatural storm is coming that briefly unites them on their rainy, pre-dawn street,” says Kate, as she sets the scene. Standout track of the night ‘Europe is Lost’ then came along. Written originally in 2015, it puts a mirror to society and there was a tangible shudder in the room as she embarks on an impressive state-of-the-nation epic which foresaw the future political landscape of the UK.
The rest of the record soon followed as a reminder of the self-centredness of corporations and modern political systems that seemingly always lead into loneliness, isolation, depression and, of course, chaos: “Justice, justice, recompense, humility / Trust is, trust is something we will never see / Till love is unconditional / The myth of the individual has left us disconnected / lost, and pitiful / I’m out in the rain / It’s a cold night in Brighton / And I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more / I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more”, she cried in closer ‘Tunnel Vision’. The audience then left thinking they were part of something that was more than just a concert.