Festival Music

Kate Tempest

Leith Theatre

Neil Cooper

Five stars

When Kate Tempest returns to the stage after performing her recent album, The Book of Traps and Lessons, in full, it’s not for some cathartic air-punching encore to lap up the love she’s just been shown. Rather, with the quiet humility that powers her poetics, the spiritual grand-daughter of Albion explains exactly why she isn’t doing one.

It’s a tellingly human way for the Herald Angel winning writer and performer to end a show that’s both incendiary and intimate. As Tempest stands before the light of a blood red moon that acts as a backdrop, she leaves herself exposed and vulnerable to the dancing searchlights that illuminate her as if she’s permanently under siege. As she spews out her urgent soothsaying against the rhythmic fizz of an electronic soundscape provided by lone synth player Clare Uchima, Tempest becomes the conscience of broken Britain and all those who have fallen down the cracks in its wake.

At times her tumble of words are evocations of collective agony, at others steeped in righteous fury. The two collide in an opening set that begins with Europe is Lost from Tempest’s 2018 Let Them Eat Chaos record. In terms of state of the nations addresses, its uneasy trawl through a dystopian present is as right here, right now as it gets.

Through this and the following We Die and Marshall Law, Tempest gives voice to a numbed underclass who survive through cheap thrills in bite-size plays for today that immortalise the fractured community she occupies. Fired from the same lyrical inner-city cauldron as post-punk poet Anne Clark, Tempest’s litanies of everyday despair are the sound of a permanent come-down, leavened only by the occasional techno wig-out.

The Book of Traps and Lessons is even more downbeat, from the fragile tryst of Thirsty, the unaccompanied starkness of All Humans Too Late and the church organ-backed preaching of Hold Your Own. Finally, in the hymnal People’s Faces, Tempest’s fractured redemption song offers some kind of salvation after the storm.