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Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents THE LINE IS A CURVE By Kae Tempest

In between these bookends is Kae's concert of The Line is a Curve.

Review: The Festival d'Avignon Presents THE LINE IS A CURVE By Kae Tempest

The 76th Festival d'Avignon officially concluded last night with Kae Tempest's The Line is a Curve at the Cour d'Honneur. This is the fifth album by Tempest. Previous works include Brand New Ancients, which I had the benefit of seeing some years back at New York's St. Ann's Warehouse. Their work in that instance was a transporting piece of storytelling. It was a very sober affair. The Line is a Curve started that way, but quickly became the cathartic rock concert to end the annual Festival.

Kae and musician Hinako Omori enter the stage to applause. Kae explains to the largely French public that there will be surtitling for their poetry but not their music. However, if you don't understand the words "be with me here," they gesture to their heart. This gets an ovation from the audience. It's a good warning too, because the acoustics in the Cour d'Honneur left much of the lyrics of the musical performance difficult to comprehend for a native English speaker.

Franki McDale and Louisa Smurthwaite have made a meal out of the Cour d'Honneur with their lighting. Two of the windows of the Cour d'Honneur are pointed to and glow white, while the rest of the wall remains multicolor. Dramatic red lighting, in alternate turns, blinds the audience and shades the windows. Intense side lighting cast a shadow of Tempest and Omori against the side-wall, emphasizing both their impact and isolation on stage.

Kae opens with their classic "Brand New Ancients." It is fabulous slam poetry. They ask us to open the door of the possibilities of today by recognizing that the human depths of yesterday are our birthright. Later, at the end of the performance, they repeat, "don't be sad that today will end, it's not tomorrow yet." Such poetry, which is performed with no musical backing, bookends the performance.

In between these bookends is Kae's concert of The Line is a Curve. A large portion of the Cour d'Honneur audience descended down the aisles. Musician Hinako Omori is thrilling. She more than holds her own in incredibly intimidating circumstances. Unfortunately, as previously stated, her performance was entirely out of balance with Kae. The Cour d'Honneur, while impressive, simply isn't an ideal concert space. This is particularly disappointing as Kae's lyric poetry is incredibly impactful. Though the accumulating crowd cheering them on by the stage didn't seem to mind.

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Tillmans

Regional Awards


From This Author - Wesley Doucette

Wesley Doucette is a PhD student in French Literature at the CUNY Grad Center. His research focuses include French cultural institutions such as the Festival d'Avignon and the innovations of ad... (read more about this author)


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