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Kate Tempest review at Brighton Dome – ‘an electric, if all too brief, gig’

Kate Tempest. Photo: Vic Frankowski

Kate Tempest, poet, performer, musician and novelist, opens this year’s Brighton Festival, of which she is guest director, with a 20-minute set in which she barely draws breath.

Letting one poem flow directly into the next, she blends material from her poetry collection Hold Your Own, which draws on the story of Tiresias, and last year’s album, Let Them Eat Chaos.

Performing solo, she has a kind of meteorological presence on stage akin with the name she has taken. There’s a pulsing quality to her performance. She can hold a room the size of the Brighton Dome rapt. She speaks of souls deadened by consumerism, overtaken by the need to buy more, to own more, lives unanchored and disconnected. When she talks about the country as a whole her statements can feel quite sweeping, but she’s a skilled observer, a skilled listener, a reader and writer of people.

Her set is electric but it’s all too brief. She’s one of four acts at what turns out to be a fairly patchy festival opening event – the two other poets on the bill, Omar Musa and Kat Francois, can’t fill the room in any way like the way she can – few performance poets could – and the closing band, Melt Yourself Down, also have a jarringly different kind of energy.

It seems in keeping with her character not to put herself first and Tempest is clearly supporting the artists she values and admires but it makes for a disjointed evening.

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A stand-out set by Kate Tempest is the highlight of the Brighton Festival opening gig