If you're planning on seeing Kate Tempest live anytime soon, be prepared to be hit by an avalanche of words.

Like an exploding dictionary, Tempest is full of them. So many spill out of the London-based beat-poet at her first Auckland show, you have to wonder how she keeps them contained when she's not on stage.

Despite suffering through some killer humidity in the venue, the playwrite, author and rapper held the sold out Kings Arms crowd spellbound.

This wasn't any old rap show. Yes, Tempest, who has had several collections of poetry published, delivered plenty of brilliant moments from her Mercury Prize-nominated debut Everybody Down, like Marshall Law's warning call, The Beigeness' street stories or Lonely Daze's downbeat drama.


But more captivating were the moments when Tempest stopped the music delivered by her two-strong band to deliver acapella raps or spoken word poetry.

Her final two poems of the night - the politically charged Europe is Lost, and the self-empowering Hold Your Own - were among the night's highlights, blistering attacks against big business, government power and corruption, and what we can do to survive them.

Those themes come through her music too, a tsunami of stories, characters, scenarios and finger pointing tempered by some wonderful punchlines and the constant thread of hope that comes through her street-level dramas.

She's a powerful, engrossing presence with such a firm grasp on the power of words she's impossible to ignore. Two days later and Kate Tempest's words are still spinning around my head, daring me to let go.

Who: Kate Tempest
Where: Kings Arms, Auckland
When: Friday, January 15

- nzherald.co.nz