By Elaine Hanlon // @elainehanlonart
Sunday night at the Chevron Lighthouse saw a blisteringly paced discourse about humanity’s excesses and its excuses, set to a thumping soundtrack. The house shook as the bass boomed through powerful speakers, synced with strobes and preternatural lighting. The stage was washed with shades of black and framed with wooden crates that surrounded a giant rust-red moon.
NSW author, poet and rapper Omar Musa accompanied by DJ Silence was the support act for Kate Tempest. His rap-styled wordplay about invasion, inequality and politics left us all wondering if we were doing enough to change our country for the better. He threw down questions about inclusivity and how we break free of the lies we’re fed. Despite the weighty messages, his poetry wasn’t damning and was peppered with good-hearted humour. By the end, he had managed to provide an uplifting sense of our indestructible human spirit and our scope for kindness through song, art, literature, love and spirituality. Proud of his Malaysian heritage, he finished strong with a rap about adopting laksa as our national dish. I’m in!
Kate Tempest is a published author, a playwright and a spoken word poet, who brings her words alive by dropping them over Brit-hop and dubstep beats. She has received wide critical acclaim for her work, including the 2013 Ted Hughes Award for Brand New Ancients. Tempest gave the opening address at the 2016 Sydney Writers Festival, and is now back based in Australia as a narrative driven hip-hop artist. She can craft a sentence like no storyteller I’ve ever heard. Her words are backed by Clare Uchima on synth and keyboards, pumping out electronica straight from London’s underground. Her show proves the British punk anarchist spirit is alive and well in a land “where nobody gives a fuck.”
This show brought together pieces from her previous albums Everybody Down and Let Them Eat Chaos, and her new album The Book of Traps and Lessons, fused together into one continuous, well-polished set. Her tone is direct and confrontational as she denounces the lack of moderation in modern life, “now all we want is some excess/better yet; a night to remember that we’ll soon forget/all of the blood that was bled for these cities to grow/all of the bodies that fell/the roots that were dug from the earth.” She also slows things down with tender interjections about love and human connections: “Your body is home to rare gods/I kneel at their temple/ I’m blown to bits, gentle, ferocious/We are open.”
Her pen is her sword and she gloriously spits out her words with conviction. I particularly liked the way she confronted British colonialism, suggesting that “old ways need to end” and that the guilt we feel is a narcissistic form of self-admiration; instead, we should strive to feel “more empathy, more respect and less greed.”
All-in-all, an exhilarating but exhausting night.
Four out of five rare gods.
Elaine is empathically drained and needs to go and pat a puppy for a while.
Image courtesy of Perth Festival