As we waited for opening act Hurricane Bells to begin Thursday night at Epic, the ads for upcoming concerts by Far East Movement, DJ Pauly D, and the Wu-Fest Tour cycled on the video screens—artists who are from a different musical planet than Scottish headliner KT Tunstall. As the concert got underway, however, it was the crowd that seemed like it was on a different planet, offering mostly lukewarm cheers and muted applause for KT Tunstall’s mixed breed of pop, folk, and rock music.
Tunstall is not a musical slouch scraping by on a couple of hits, and although there was enthusiasm for her biggest hits, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” “Other Side of the World,” and “Suddenly I See,” looking around, I started to wonder if I had missed a subtitle to the concert: “Couples wanting to cuddle and sway especially welcome. No raucous cheering.” Thankfully, the crowd’s lack of enthusiasm was the only significant letdown of the evening.
Tunstall opened with three songs off her new album Tiger Suit, and eventually played the entire album along with five songs from her debut album Eye to the Telescope (2004) and two from her sophomore effort Drastic Fantastic (2007). Whether created with loops or played by her band, the highly textured backing instrumentation was a hallmark of the performance. Tunstall is competent with her loop pedal and provided her own backing instruments and vocals for multiple songs. It was impressive to watch her build the loops for “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree,” which included backing guitar, vocals, and clapping. Had I not watched her create each loop live, it would have been hard to believe she was the only musician on stage.
The set hit a particularly high point about two-thirds through as Tunstall played “Saving My Face,” “Madame Trudeaux,” “Push That Knot Away,” and “Fade Like a Shadow.” All but the first song are from her new album. Although the music was new, Tunstall played with the confidence usually reserved for musicians’ hits, settling into a good groove for that portion of the set. Her enthusiasm for Tiger Suit was apparent as she talked about that album’s songs.
I watched the crowd during “Fade Like a Shadow,” and it was easy to see why that was released as the first single from the new album. The audience visibly warmed up, sang along by the second repetition of the chorus, and clapped loudly at the end. I anticipated the positive vibe would continue through the encore, but instead it got off to a rocky start when Tunstall stopped in the first verse of the down tempo ballad “Heal Over” to chide two chatty women in the front, asking them to give her “one song without talking, please.” The tension eased and the pace picked back up as she covered Erasure’s “A Little Respect” next, then concluded the night with the bubbly hit “Suddenly I See.” It was a solid show by an impressive artist.