22 February 2023

Kae's plays

Kae Tempest played the Playhouse.  This was something exciting; something I'd waited for in anticipation.  KT is an influence on my recordings as The Pots.  Their poetry, care and thought and political position ring true.  Not just that, but KT is also highly regarded and awarded.  It's hard to appear with such high expectations.  Some expectations were thwarted.  I didn't like the overloud sub-bass, but then I don't like that dumb and painful thump which appears mostly in a professional outposts with the best gear.  I lost much of the meaning with that thump, from my tissue earplugs and just the sheer volume.  And there was also a toppy edge that I protected against.  The show was Kae with Kinako Omori accompanying on various electronics, synths, loops and the rest.  KO played some simple piano on a Nord and some single note stubs on a Novation board but mostly loops and triggered whatevers.  It was musically simple and performance-wise effective, insistent and involving.  She sang an occasional line, too, behind or in response to Kae.  But it was Kae and Kae's words that were the inherent purpose of the night.  I noticed how we heard them best a few times against quieter backing, as in Firesmoke, gentle, pensive, intimate, quiet with anticipation, persistent with that 4-cum-5 beat groove.  No volume struggles there and the poetry stood clear and the meaning bell-like.  The core of the performance was Kae's latest album, The line is a curve, played straight through if I recognised it right.  It's more intimate and personal than the earlier works.  Kae sounds happier, if some travails also appear.  Then a selection of earlier tunes and three unreleased ones to finish.  I noticed Europe is lost for its politics but it was missing the tragic intro of Esther's story, touching and demonstrative as it is.  I love how Kae can place political commentary in that human context.  Esther was missing this night but these were similar  snippets otherwise, other visits to London lives or at least related, desperate humanity.  I think I remember Ketamine for breakfast and Peoples' faces and Hold your own.  Others, too, if I knew Kae's repertoire better.  Kae, like Jannah before her, spoke to the audience on arrival and later to end, but otherwise performed uninterrupted, with Kinako on a pedestal with several keyboards and various lighting effects and an inexplicable (to me, at least) projection of a Californian sequoia (if my botany serves me correctly) and her mic and stand.  And I can only admire her memory.  There were very, very many lines over those 80 mins or so and I only noted one slip, in a final piece of unaccompanied poetry (was it Hold your own?).  Largely, Kae's performance was as I'd expected, informed, personal, touching, visiting tunes.  Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was the audience.  I'd expected poets or young hip hoppers or whatever, but this was a mostly ordinary looking Canberra crowd, of various ages and seemingly mild disposition.  Wow!  Such a surprise to me.  I guess, like Smiths and its often mature crowd, the bohemian and poetic is widespread in this town.  Maybe elsewhere too.  It's a satisfying realisation and this was a satisfying if loud concert.  Much enjoyed by Megan and me and many.

Kae Tempest (vocals) performed with accompaniment by Kinako Omori (keyboards and various electronics, occasional vocals) at the Playhouse.

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