KT Tunstall
at The Late Room,
Manchester, England
(23 November 2004)

Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall must have been looking forward to her latest tour with considerable relish. Especially so in the knowledge that her recent striking solo debut performance on British television (on the Later With Jools Holland show) had swollen the ranks of her already growing number of fans. With an EP, False Alarm, under her belt and her first album, Eye to the Telescope, due out in December, the future is looking bright for this ultra talented musician performing songs across a range of genres from alt pop to the bluesy contemporary.

Tunstall had evidently been suffering from a heavy cold affecting her voice on her four previous gigs on tour before Manchester. (Indeed, she had to cancel her scheduled concert in Oxford the following evening.) Despite this drawback, she gave a performance that, being both gutsy and passionate, enthralled a packed audience. It was clear from the outset that she was going to give it her all with attitude to compensate for her ill health. She explained that she would not be able to do her more "girly" songs, as she defined them, yet she managed to sing powerfully throughout and her even sultrier than usual vocals seemed to give an added dimension to some of the numbers.

Her excellent new keyboard player, Kenny Dickinson, immediately made an impact on "Another Place to Fall," as did Tunstall's vocals and guitar, plus a jazzy rhythm section provided by drummer Luke Bullen and electric bass player Arnie Lindner. This number provided the first of several exciting new arrangements. The audience was also fascinated by Tunstall's creative original use of her Head Rush loop machine, not least on "Black Horse & the Cherry Tree." This was the song she performed on television and its inclusion here was greeted with huge cheers from the audience. The only time Tunstall's voice wobbled was on a high note during "Other Side of the World," but she carried it off with characteristically good humour, which warmed the audience to her even more. She used her husky voice to sexy effect in "False Alarm."

One of the highlights of the gig was "Stopping the Love," featuring an additional drum, backing vocals from the band and startling cello bowing improvisations by Lindner. The biggest surprise was an effective trumpet burst from Dickinson. The conclusion of the gig was marked by a superb drum link from a love song "Universe & You" to the upbeat "Suddenly I See," at the beginning of which Tunstall demonstrated some innovative dance moves -- another light-hearted touch. Her extraordinarily unrestrained vocals during this song combined with the tight playing of the band, including Dickinson showing yet more versatility by banging a metal dustbin lid with a tambourine, created a memorably thrilling finale. A quieter encore, "Throw Me a Rope" (the only song at the gig which will not be on the album), brought the evening to a serene conclusion and demonstrated yet again the remarkable versatility Tunstall possesses.

- Rambles
written by Andy Jurgis
published 18 December 2004

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