Kate Tempest, Clubs & Spades and Normanton Street: Plug, Sheffield

Hosting a joint venture between literature organisation Word Life and Now Then magazine, Plug ditched its usually sticky floored, student night feel for an atmosphere of creativity, inspiration and talent at Kate Tempest’s first headline Sheffield gig.

Sheffield boys Clubs and Spades didn’t bother introducing themselves at first, deciding to simply state “We fuck shit up” before charging straight into a set of screaming guitar solos and tight verses in a seamless rock/rap fusion. With rappers Matic Mouth and Shinobi taking the mic and ex Arctic Monkeys boy Andy Nicholson on bass, the band don’t look like they belong on stage together but it’s soon apparent these lads know how to make their two genres sound perfect together.

The four piece declare the crowd “full steel” before hurtling towards “Plastic Cups”, the crowd bouncing peace signs with one arm and holding a pint of Plug’s finest aloft with the other. By the end of the set Plug was fully on board, including one older chap who despite looking unimpressed with the band for the first half of their set was jumping and chanting Clubs and Spades’ tag line “mashing up raves, rock clubs for days” with the young student next to him by the time the boys wrapped up their set.

Crescendoing drums and squealing synths announced Kate Tempest’s imminent arrival on Plug’s stage, a musical metaphor of the poet’s recent rise to success in the mainstream. This is the Ted Hughes Prize winner and Mercury Prize nominee’s first headline show in Sheffield and the crowd are held in a silent anticipation as the beat intensifies.

As the 28-year-old appears she is casual and unassuming, a complete contradiction to her introduction, and quietly begins a poem. She tells the tale of a girl at a music video wrap party, disengaged with those around her, but sharing a roll of the eyes with a guy across the room. Before you even notice the poem has seamlessly transformed into a rap criticising the music industry and the recession and telling a love story with bouncy, synthy hooks bringing the crowd out of the thoughtful mood the poem’s quiet beginnings had incited.

“This is a big fucking deal” says Tempest, giving a brief 12 year history of blood, sweat and tears that have led to her this stage.

“This is it, it’s happening now.”

The spoken word artist loves what she does, and pinpoints the time she fell in love with rapping and it changed her life. This passion for the music burns through into Tempest’s songs, echoing around the room with every verse. And her fans are so important she spends most of the set beyond the lights of the stage, perched instead on the very edge, as close to her enthralled crowd as she can get.

‘Lonely Daze’ revisits Becky, the same girl from Tempest’s first song. Tempest’s roots in poetry are strong, with the incredible track accompanying the anecdotal rap almost fading into the shadows of the engrossing storytelling.

The middle of Kate Tempest’s set gets heavy, with a request for the bass to be turned right up Plug takes on the character of a warehouse rave at 4:30am, with voice effects transforming Tempest’s words into a sound effect, echoing over sirens and the occasional blast of hardcore gabber. From the depths of a ravers paradise Kate Tempest brings Plug back round, encouraging empathy and condoning greed, questioning if there is anything we can still trust, do or believe in and stressing the importance of everybody’s value.

Met with a reception greater than any politician’s speech Tempest once again thanks her fans for being part of her dream and throws her arms round her band to give a final bow.

After the show, Plug was quickly revamped into a temporary cinema to show Nas:Time is Illmatic, a documentary about the life and influences of rapper Nas and his 1994 album Illmatic.

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