Fifteen minutes of incandescent brilliance, an hour of fair-to-greatness, four fantastic musicians and one impossibly likeable performance poet/rapper combine to make a slightly erratic but thoroughly exhilarating piece of spoken word storytelling from rising star Kate Tempest.
There is a deceptively conversational flow to the scruffy Tempest's south London vowels as she stands in front of her band, spinning a yarn about a bunch of messed up Peckhamites trying to make do. It's an epic and sometimes confusing tale of intertwined families that is often so Byzantine that Tempest herself loses the thread of her rhymes. But she winningly 'fesses up to her flubs, and indubitably finds her groove, her performance increasing in power and confidence over the duration of 'Brand New Ancients'. And the band is muso-ishly superb, punctuating Tempest's words with jazzily atmospheric skittering and furious post-rock roars.
For the sake of clarity I wish she'd ditched some peripheral characters and made more of the story's heroes – Tommy, a daydreaming artist, and Glory, his pub-landlady girlfriend – and antiheroes – Clive and Spider, two former innocents fatally messed up by irresponsible parents.
But if the bigger picture isn't always crystal clear then the performances transcend this as Tempest and band move from ambling beginning to heart-pounding climax with juggernaut implacability.
The climactic sequence, in which the four main characters' paths violently cross, is as transfixing as anything you'll see on a stage this year, a crossfire of vaulting wordplay, juddering percussion and gut-churning tension.