Kate Tempest – Brighton Corn Exchange (14.05.15)

Mercury Prize nominated poet delivers a stunning sold-out show in Brighton

May 13th, 2015 at Brighton Corn Exchange / By Norman Miller
Kate Tempest – Brighton Corn Exchange (14.05.15) Way too many people find success with lyrics that are at best trite, and often shite. Kate Tempest provides a glorious riposte – a superb poet whose pieces dazzle with their own internal driving rhythm in a brilliant first spoken set, before blowing the house down matched to music in a storming main set (huge credit to Dan Cary, leading a super-tight band from the back of the stage).

Tempest not only writes words that resonate unforgettably with real life awareness, but she performs with breathtaking intensity and, importantly, utter sincerity. She ain't here for the money or acclaim, she's here because it's as important as breathing to convey her sense of injustice and lives lived under social stress.

She's come to a town that appreciates her, the gig long sold out in the only place in England's SE counties where two little dots of red and green stood out defiantly on the political map amid a sea of dismal blue after Election night. Now 29, Tempest draws deeply on growing up in what she describes as "a shitty part of London”, inspired to hit back at poverty and class-driven social crap partly by a father who took himself from manual labourer to criminal lawyer, plus “hanging around on picket lines rapping at riot cops".

Her first set dips into poetry that saw her collection Brand New Ancients scoop the top poetry prize in the land (2013's Ted Hughes Award). For the musically-inclined, though, Tempest delivers a headline set that blisteringly runs through her Mercury-nominated 2014 album Everybody Down.

Tempest seems to channel 21st century rage at social injustice with the high intensity emotions of ancient Greek drama in a uniformly awesome set whose highlights include a storming 'The Heist', the funked-up 'Circles', the simmering disdain of 'Marshall Law' and the brilliant lope of 'Lonely Daze'.

Big up too for opening act poet Hollie McNish – as warmly engaging as she is fiercely smart, delivering poems sticking it brilliantly and wittily to sexism, ageism and other wrongs. Only George the Poet lets things slide – not because he's bad, but just because his particular brand of socially-aware poetic raps are simply outshone by two outstanding and truly distinctive women.