The triumphant return of a folk-rock icon: KT Tunstall

The triumphant return of a folk-rock icon: KT Tunstall

It has been 12 years since KT Tunstall and her loop pedal entered the music scene. As she strode onto the stage at Colston Hall, wearing gold harem pants for the opening night of her latest UK album tour, she doesn’t appear to have aged one bit. The same, sadly, cannot be said for her audience and I found myself one of the few young faces in attendance at the sold out show. I was also dismayed to find that the whole audience were seated since I have always felt that the pleasure of live music is in the give and take between audience and performer. A seated crowd can be quite dampening. Nonetheless there was a rapturous response for KT’s nostalgic opening number ‘If only’ and her stirring rendition of ‘Still A Weirdo’ truly announced her presence on stage.

Charming the crowd in between songs, KT explained that moving to California inspired her to begin writing ‘big rock songs’ and hence we see her emulating the style of other West Coast emigrants such as Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and Tom Petty. The Californian influence can certainly be heard in ‘Maybe It’s A Good Thing’, which weaves this rockier style with a power pop edge. No one could doubt the rock’n’roll credentials of ‘Evil Eye’, which she describes as a lyrical voodoo doll – angry and spiteful. But while she undoubtedly has the effervescence of a true rock star, heavier songs like ‘Evil Eye’ and ‘Hard Girls’ seemed to leave this crowd behind, and the real highlight was when her band retreated and we were left alone with KT and the full power of her voice for acoustic renditions of ‘Invisible Empire’ and ‘White Bird’. The soft melancholy of these gentle folk songs has the captivating power of making one feel totally isolated in the room.

It struck me as surprising that, for someone with so many treasured hits, the audience were just as enthusiastic for the new material. KT continued to intertwine new and old, playfully mashing to great effect ‘Black horse And A Cherry Tree’ with the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’. She aptly balanced the driving rhythms of this and ‘Saving my face’ with the hushed and heartfelt vocals of some of her latest tracks ‘KIN’ and ‘On my star’. And so, having almost quit pop music after her last album three years ago, KT Tunstall returns to UK shores resurgent with all the charisma and verve that first grabbed our attention over a decade ago. And with a host of hits new and old, there is something here for everybody not just for the balding forty-somethings.

4/5 Stars

Ludo Graham