I can probably count on one hand with four amputated fingers the number of artists I could describe as “Poet, Playwright and Rapper,” and she would be the reason a sold-out Sala Rossa chose her over Said The Whale, John K Samson, and the other shows around the city this evening. The word “unique” is often over-used when it comes to describing music, but London-born Kate Tempest is surely the embodiment of it. How many other people can you think of who are releasing both records and books at the same time?!
First up tonight though, is Gatineau-born David Dufour, aka D-Track, with his brand of Francophone hiphop. Musically, it’s smooth stuff, with DJ Eazy El Dee providing Q-Tip style beats, although lyrically, I couldn’t tell you much about it, except that it sounded cool, and rhymed.
I’ve been in Montreal almost 10 years now, and whilst I can get by in French at this point, I’m definitely not at the level of hip hop comprehension. I think one song was about Bridget Jones, one about Kepler (the 17th century mathematician? Not sure…), and the last one was about a back pack. One cool moment was when one of his buddies joined the stage for a few songs, and produced a random list of words (for example, Cornichon, Minou, Soulier, and Zamboni) that D-Track had to incorporate into a freestyle rap, in order. He did, crossing off each word as he said it. A fun 30 minutes.
“Fun” is not really a word you apply to the work of Kate Tempest, though. Most recent album Let Them Eat Chaos explores life from the perspective of several different characters, all with different stories to tell, and provides a fairly damning indictment on modern-day Society. She’s all smiles as she arrives on stage, though, and addresses the crowd right off the bat. She tells us how when putting this North American tour together, she was told that Montreal was a notoriously tough place to visit, where it’s hard to fill a room, and how humbled she was to have sold out this show, her first ever in our city.
She implores all to come on a journey with her through the Let Them Eat Chaos record, which would be played from start to finish, and not watch it through a phone screen, which is greeted with roars of approval. And that’s the last time she speaks to us until the end of the show, as, true to her word, she plays right through the record in order.
Picture A Vacuum begins the set with just Kate snarling vocals unaccompanied, before the deep trippy bass beats of Lionmouth Door Knocker sets the scene for the narrative to follow. Europe Is Lost soon follows that, with its distorted beats tearing through the packed room even more emphatically than it does on record. The beats drop for a couple of minutes midway through, leaving Kate to spit the vocals in the most intense acapella you’ve ever heard, before the beats kick back in so ferociously that my glasses shake with the bass; its intense stuff.
Whoops is notably faster and funkier than on record, while Don’t Fall In, with insane distortion, is also beefed up compared to its recorded counterpart, and we’re starting to border on sensory overload. Pictures On A Screen takes the pace down a few notches, with its spooky, twinkly beats and mantra-like chorus of “I know it’s happening, but who is it happening to?” Tunnel Vision rounds off the account, with Kate looking genuinely moved by the end, rattled even, after she fervently concludes the 60-minute set with the line “I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more.” The entire crowd roars in agreement. Kate and her backing musicians gather in the middle of the stage and embrace, before leaving the stage.
After cheers for an encore, Kate returns to the stage alone, informs all that she doesn’t believe in encores, but just wants to say thanks again; “that was electric,” to quote her. Couldn’t have put it any better myself!
A phenomenal debut in our fair city, and hopefully the first of many more.
1 Picture A Vacuum
2 Lionmouth Door Knocker
3 Ketamine For Breakfast
4 Europe Is Lost
5 We Die
8 Don’t Fall In
9 Pictures On A Screen
10 Perfect Coffee
13 Tunnel Vision
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Arianne Bergeron