The Verse’s Alex Berdugo reviews multi-talented playwright Kate Tempest’s opening show at Brighton Festival.
The mystery of what the night held was personified on the stage: two large drum kits, a very active smoke machine, and saxophones basking in the blue lights. The audience began to fill their seats after coming in from the bar, just in time as Kate Tempest made her appearance for a welcome speech. Her introduction was short but sweet, obviously touched by the turnout of the event and the audible support from the audience. Tempest gave an emotion driven speech, claiming that art is the ‘cultivation of empathy’ and that the Brighton Festival was the gathering of many great artists. Her passionate words prepared the crowd for first poet of the night, Omar Musa.
Musa won over the audience immediately. His down to earth attitude made him instantly relatable and his confidence was addictive. His first piece explored racism in contemporary society, based on real events in other countries and personal experience. The single spotlight on Musa and his powerful verbal ability had a goose bumps inducing effect – a sign of a great performer. His set preached equality, love and peace, with original formatting of poems and an undying charm. Omar Musa was the perfect opening act.
Following for a poetic display of her own was Kat Francoise. Francoise only did a single piece, yet it was incredibly effective in its own right. Her poem consisted more of hooks and repeated choruses than those of Musa’s, though her work was just as bitter towards topical issues. My favourite line from her piece was ‘we kidnap our own emotions and refuse them the light of day’. Francoise promises to be a well-known name on the scene in the future.
Kate Tempest’s set was, like the previous two performers, exceptional. Instead of doing many short poems, she did one unbroken, twenty-minute spoken word extravaganza. The set was utterly captivating, the crowd murmuring agreement and clapping at regular intervals. If anything, Tempest’s piece felt like a revolution was beginning to brew, an uprising through poetry.
Lastly, Tempest introduced the final act. London band Melt Yourself Down jumped onto the stage and their charisma was immediately apparent. They were an eclectic mix of eccentric musicians, playing their instruments like it would be their last time. Dual saxophones melded with the manic bass playing and supernal vocals. Their sound was Ska-esque, having the audience sway to their sounds in a mass like a bizarre 90s Woodstock. The lead singer jumped so much, he injured his leg in the penultimate song. Limping the final song, he carried just as much presence as he did previously.
Overall, it was a fantastic and diverse night of awe-inspiring spoken word and heart racing music. Kate Tempest has been rightly appointed Guest Director of Brighton Festival 2017. If her future shows are half as crowd pleasing as one, they will be a ferocious success.