KT Tunstall: Petting Tigers

KT Tunstall rocked the house solo at the Hiro Ballroom on July 13, 2010.
(Photo © 2010 by Bryan Reesman.)

I have to admit that I am a casual KT Tunstall fan, but when I heard she was performing an acoustic set this past Tuesday in NYC to debut material from her forthcoming album Tiger Suit, I made sure that I was there. The talented folk-rocker stands out from the VH1 singer-songwriter set where she has received substantial media exposure. She’s got funk and spunk, and during her performance she charmed the audience with her fearless stage presence, cheeky jokes about celebs like Snoop Dogg and Lady Gaga and cursing over the fact that the electronic gear she brought with her to generate live loops and samples
had some technical difficulties.

After having played some warmup gigs at pubs in Scotland, Tunstall performed her first official show of the new album cycle at the Hiro Ballroom in Manhattan. While she said she planned to return with a band, this particular concert featured her on acoustic guitar (occasionally with programmed beats or self-generated percussion samples from vocal sounds or hitting her guitar), keyboards on one tune and even plugged-in with her Gretsch on a couple of tunes. The vocalist/guitarist also sampled her own voice so she could sing along with herself. While Tunstall occasionally struggled with the technology (“the pedalboard is too far from my foot!”), her self-deprecating sense of humor won over the crowd, who loved her even more for the flubs, which actually imbued her performance with an edgy vibe.

Tunstall held her audience's rapt attention throughout the whole set.
(Photo © 2010 by Bryan Reesman.)

Tunstall’s approximately 65-minute performance included past and present material that worked well in the intimate setting. Of the newer songs, standouts included the contemplative “Still A Weirdo,” which addressed her artistic evolution by looking at where she’s come from, while the pulsating dance vibe of “Push That Knot Away” (video clip below) found her staring down adversity and crossing over into new territory; she called it her attempt at writing something that sounds like Eddie Cochran meets Leftfield. The upbeat “Fade Like A Shadow” also sounded strong and vibrant (video clip below). In explaining the album title Tiger Suit, Tunstall divulged that she used to have dreams of peacefully petting a tiger, then coming inside and realizing she could have been mauled. Her rationale for her perpetual survival? She must have been wearing a tiger suit, which fooled the animal and is why it didn’t eat her.

Acoustic alchemy.
(Photo © 2010 by Bryan Reesman.)

Included in her older material were well-known gems like “Hold On,” “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” (with some nice, live sampled sounds) and a rockin’ electric rendition of “Suddenly I See”. And she closed the set with something she has never played before: a cover of LCD Sound System’s “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”. This brisk set was certainly a nice way to whet fans’ appetite for her upcoming tour and made me want to delve deeper into her work.

For those readers who might be surprised to find Tunstall covered here amid my metal, goth and horror ravings, I offer these interesting facts (beyond my eclectic tastes): She rocked a studded bracelet on her left wrist, performed beneath the ballroom’s carved Chinese dragon head with glowing red eyes and admitted that as a child she had fangs and needed to have them chiseled down after hurting a fellow student. KT Tunstall: Folk rocker, comedian, vampire. Awesome.

KT in motion.
(Photo © 2010 by Bryan Reesman.)

Is this thing working?
(Photo © 2010 by Bryan Reesman.)

In the eighties, it was lighters. Now it's cell phones. Go figure.
(Photo © 2010 by Bryan Reesman.)

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