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Kate Tempest review: Sometimes the fourth wall needs to be broken

PUBLISHED: 13:45 09 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:54 09 November 2019

Kate Tempest at Norwich LCR. Photo: Patrick Widdess

Kate Tempest at Norwich LCR. Photo: Patrick Widdess

Patrick Widdess

There's a calm before the storm as Kate Tempest takes to the Norwich LCR stage. She silently surveys the crowd, drawing them in before taking up the mic and launching into Europe is Lost - the start of a seamless medley of material from her first two albums, Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos.

Kate Tempest at Norwich LCR. Photo: Patrick WiddessKate Tempest at Norwich LCR. Photo: Patrick Widdess

The poet, rapper, playwright and story teller has been writing and performing relentlessly since her teens and now when her lips part a breathless torrent of words pours forth.

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Instead of the band she has performed with in the past a single musician cues up beats and plays keyboards. With Kate's finely honed vocal skills and unshakeable stage presence it's all she needs. She conjures up vivid characters and dystopian inner city scenes as pure white rays illuminate a dark stage matching the duo's pale faces and jet black attire.

This powerful first movement fades after about 20 minutes to another moment of reverential silence. Red light bathes a silver disc at the back of the stage silhouetting the performer against a red moon as she begins the sombre Thirsty, at the start of a word-for-word delivery of the latest album, The Book of Traps and Lessons. It is a performance both fresh and familiar as the two artists inject more depth and feeling into this live rendition than a recording can convey.

Kate Tempest at Norwich LCR. Photo: Patrick WiddessKate Tempest at Norwich LCR. Photo: Patrick Widdess

As a longtime fan of Kate Tempest, the only problem is it's too slick. I first saw her prancing about in shorts and a woolly cardigan at a London cafe the size of the stage she now dominates. As she progressed to concert halls and festival stages she always retained a tight connection with the crowd, addressing them between songs and launching into verbal tirades that got the hairs on the back of the neck tingling. She was a bard channelling the hopes, fears, joy and anger of her people. Now elevated to even greater heights her raw talent has been distilled to the point where every word is scripted and delivered with precision. Apart from a short closing address she never digresses. Killer lines like "our leaders aren't even pretending not to be demons" are spoken to the stage floor.

The crowd don't seem to mind. They are mesmerised by the spectacle Shakespearean in its magnitude with exquisite lyricism, drama and stark emotions. But sometimes the fourth wall needs to be broken.

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