The Queen of the loop pedal, KT Tunstall, made a welcome return to Chicago, holding the audience captivated in her palm.
Maddie Ross took to the stage with an excited smile across her face that did not fade throughout her whole set. And it’s not surprising since this is her first ever national tour. Needless to say, a few months ago, Maddie was ecstatic and gob-smacked to receive a message on Twitter from none other than KT Tunstall, asking her to open for her on the upcoming tour. Of course, she jumped at the opportunity, and promptly set up an Indiegogo campaign to help raise the funds for merch to sell at the shows and gas money to help make the 22 city, 12,000 mile tour possible.
Her set comprised of a combination of mostly original songs with a few covers thrown in, including Six Pence None The Richer’s “Kiss Me” which showcased her voice perfectly. Joining her on stage providing guitar accompaniment was Madison Scheckel (aka Wolfy) who is also her producer, girlfriend and a solo artist in her own right. The joy these two seem to be deriving from opening for KT is clear for everyone to see. Park West was already impressively full by the time they took to the stage and their set certainly grabbed everyone’s attention and got the night started on the right note. If you are heading along to see this tour, make sure you get yourself along early to catch these two perform.
KT Tunstall came out to a warm welcome from the eager Chicago crowd and took her place behind her extensive pedal board – crucial tools of the trade when you are taking the role of all the band members (other than the drummer). It’s starting to feel like there’s not a stage in Chicago that KT hasn’t performed on, having played at the likes of Beat Kitchen, City Winery and the House of Blues over the past few years to name just a few. Whichever stage it is, the crowds will keep coming, and it’s no wonder why. She works hard to ensure that each tour has a completely different feel to it, whether it’s her one-woman show or her full band shows, she’s always evolving and looking to move things forward. For this tour, Tunstall is joined on stage by drummer Cat Myers which adds a whole new and rocking dimension to the show.
The current tour is in support of Wax which was just released on October 5 and which, Tunstall tells the audience, is the second of the unintentional trilogy of mind, body and soul albums. Wax is rockier than her previous releases, which resulted in a mostly electric set. Despite the album only just being released, the crowd were obviously already familiar with the new material as they sang and jumped along.
Tunstall mentioned that whilst she had been worried that the creative spark may wane as she got older but that, in reality, she has found the opposite to be true. This is borne out by her output which is of a consistently high standard. Each album she makes is almost like a mini-reinvention with each release having its own persona. As she played through the songs from various albums, you can hear the variety that keeps her sound fresh over the years. Listening to the songs from Eye To The Telescope, you can hear they have stood the test of time, but are very different to those from Kin, Tiger Suit or the more folky Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon which saw her travel to the Arizona desert for inspiration. Another thing that has definitely not been negatively impacted by the passage of time and has, in fact, matured like a great bottle of wine is that voice. During the night it ranges from clear and bell-like to a bluesy/gravelly growl depending on what the song calls for. It’s truly impressive to watch her exercise total control over her vocals even when she is pogoing up and down or doing the old pedalboard two-step to make sure loops come in and out at the right moment.
Jokingly asking “who wants to ride the horsey,” she, of course, performed “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” which she mashed up with The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” mid-set, mixing in other older material throughout the night. Songs like the rocky “The Healer” and “Hold On” made it impossible for the audience to stand still, while others like “The Night That Bowie Died” gave the audience pause to reflect. The night was ended on a high with the uptempo “Push That Knot Away” and the oldie but goodie “Suddenly I See” which had the whole of Park West demonstrating their vocal abilities one last time.
Along with the great songs and superb musicianship, you can also always guarantee a fun night at a KT Tunstall show. She is a performer that looks totally at ease on stage and possesses that rare ability to chat with the audience in a way that makes you feel like you’re just sat in a bar having a beer with her. Every performance always has a healthy dose of her irreverent humor injected into the performance – whether intentional or not – be it in the form of not taking herself seriously when setting up the loop pedal, having a self-described “brain fart” during the intro of a song or during her “Where you could have been” segment.
In a live setting, there’s a certain connection that happens between an artist and an audience when, in addition to loving the music, the audience feels they’re getting a genuine slice of who that artist is. For the reasons outlined above, the bond between KT and her audience (whatever the venue and whether it’s filled with die-hard fans or first-timers) will always be a strong one.
The tour continues throughout North America until Thanksgiving weekend, before heading over to Europe.