Kae Tempest: ‘I want to do this forever’

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Kae Tempest: ‘I want to do this forever’

"You perform every night and say thank you and sometimes you mean it more than others...I was standing up there thinking 'I want to do this forever'."

You get the feeling that the poet of their generation isn’t one for platitudes.

Their performance at The Forum continued the personal and professional evolution of Tempest, coming just two days after the release of their latest EP, Nice Idea.

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The universally-acclaimed spoken-word artist, rapper, and may we say emphatically singer (their vocal refrains are powerful when they choose to use them) has come a long way since their debut album Everybody Down.

In 2014, then aged 27 with their trademark wild mane of red hair, Tempest emerged as a symbol of a politically-frustrated youth. In concept albums they articulate the wild emotional dichotomy of a generation troubled not just by drugs, loves and loneliness, but by financial inequality, global instability and environmental catastrophe.

Artistically they also walk the line between two worlds, equally powerful as writer and rapper, on stage at The Forum or addressing an audience on Q+A.

In 2020, Tempest revealed they were non-binary, speaking of the pain gender dysphoria had caused throughout their life.

Three years later, now 37 but looking more youthful than ever, Tempest cut a relaxed, even joyful figure in brief moments of personal connection with the audience before and after their set.

There’s a palpable sense of self-consciousness – they purposefully avoid talking between tracks, worried of misspeaking and losing the moment. They self-effacingly cut themselves short when they feel they’re on the brink of a tangent.

It’s perhaps most endearing because of the almighty passion with which they perform. Unlike spoken word, which lends itself to audible reactions from the crowd, the packed Forum audience mostly stood dumbstruck as Tempest lectured from above. There were no phones in the audience, no one was recording. In hindsight, it’s bloody unbelievable.

You’ll never work harder at a gig, intently trying to catch every word and unwrap the layers of meaning. Yet conversely, you’ll never find it easier to be totally absorbed. A reviewer’s words simply cannot do Kae’s words justice, they speak better for themselves than just about any other contemporary artist can.

Particularly impressive is how little Tempest requires to totally engage, with the lighting, samples, visuals, interluding vocals, movement and dark electronica all kept purposefully restrained. Ultimately – and this is the biggest compliment you can give – Tempest remains most awe-inspiring when acapella.

Just them, a microphone, and an audience liberated by the enunciation of emotions they could never otherwise quite grasp.

Follow the latest Kae Tempest tour dates and releases here.