Monday, September 19, 2016

KT Tunstall at Irving Plaza

Kate Tunstall, known by her stage name KT Tunstall, was born to a half-Chinese, half-Scottish, Hong Kong-born exotic dancer and an Irish bartender in Edinburgh, Scotland. At 18 days old, her mother gave her for adoption to a couple in St. Andrews, Scotland. Although raised in an academic and non-musical family, she learned to play piano at age four and later learned to play other musical instruments. Some of her earliest public performances were on sidewalks in Burlington, Vermont, during a period when she was living in a rural commune. She also played in indie bands and even a klezmer band before launching a solo career in 2004. By 2006, she had won a European Border Breakers Award, an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song and a Brit Award for Best British Female Artist. Tunstall released her fifth studio album, KIN, on September 9, 2016. Since 2014, Tunstall has lived in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California.

KT Tunstall is a singer-songwriter, and many of her best-known songs were reflective of a folk sensibility. Recently coming out of a self-imposed hiatus, she recorded an album, assembled a band, devised a live set list that included five songs from her most recent album, older originals and covers of songs by the Bangles, the White Stripes and Bruce Springsteen, and hit the road. At Irving Plaza tonight, she spent large bulks of her performance time introducing the origins of each song along with other anecdotes and memoirs. The set seemed so homey that a man bought her a drink and delivered it to the stage and a woman presented her with a jar of Nutella. As for the music, Tunstall sang in a fine contralto voice, riding melodies with appropriate power, nuance and occasional grit. Even from the opening song, "If Only," her sound moved further away from her folkie roots, instead rocking to a modern power pop style. Here was the weakness; as a rocker, her songs lost some of their integral earthiness in favor of banging radio pop. Performing solo on acoustic guitar on "Invisible Empire" halfway through the set, she began to recapture the vulnerability of her sensitive side. Perhaps the set could have benefitted from a better balance between poet and rocker.

Visit KT Tunstall at www.kttunstall.com.