Although at first I wished that I was down with the hardcore fans, I have to admit that from the balcony of the O2 Academy Leeds the stage set-up was an impressive sight, made all the more interesting by the large, luminescent tiger suit graphic which dominated the background, as well as the artist herself, who was dressed in a large, Indian style headdress. Having spent a long period travelling around the world visiting cities on several different continents, including the arctic town Uummannaq which inspired her opening song, KT Tunstall’s new 2011 tour was long-awaited and, when she visited Leeds on the 27th February, welcomed by fans with open arms (and a very amusing drunken declaration of love from one member of the audience). The performance certainly lived up to its striking backdrop.
The night began with a set performed by Scottish singer/songwriter Pictish Trail, known off stage as Johnny Lynch. The support act jokingly promised the audience to “depress the sh*t” out of them, and proceeded to play four acoustic pieces on both guitar and piano that, while not being exactly upbeat, were not enough to reduce anyone to tears. Though his style was quirky and he was clearly confident, his songs seemed slightly awkward and were not fully received by the crowd.
It was then a further half hour wait before the main act came to the stage. Accompanied by a new band of clearly talented musicians, including red-headed former Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, who also provided surprisingly good vocals, KT played an excellent set which provided fans with a mix of songs, from tracks such as Get In, Fade like a Shadow and Madame Trudeaux from her new Tiger Suit album (released September 2010) to old favourites from her previous two albums, Eye to the Telescope and Drastic Fantastic. For me, the most notable performances were those she performed alone, including a rendition of her début single Other Side of the World, performed using just two effects pedals, a synthesiser and her own voice, which she used to convey both the lyrics and the tune to the song. However, the best song of the night had even less accompaniment; with just her guitar KT proceeded to “pop the cherry” of a never-before-sung-live song The Punk, a subdued, moving song that demonstrated how her soulful style has survived through her rise to fame.
The set lasted an hour and a half, with the Scottish singer keeping a good rapport with the Leeds audience, asking them to admire her outfit choice – “the shiniest trousers ever” – and the one time achievement that was her song Black Horse and a Cherry Tree becoming number one on the VH1 Country Chart Channel. Once finished, KT was demanded by two minutes of non-stop applause to return to the stage for an encore, in which she kept up the fun, joking atmosphere by performing the brass section of her penultimate song with nothing more than an orange kazoo. The night finished with the award-winning song Suddenly I See, before KT and her other band members took a collective bow at centre stage.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the gig – although I do enjoy listening to her CDs, it was a completely different experience to hear her live. Her voice was stunningly good and proved her talent to be genuine, holding a resonance that gave an impact and depth that suited both her upbeat and slower, more subdued tracks in such a way that I found myself liking songs I’d previously found boring. Her personality also lent a lot to the music; I don’t think she stood still on stage for more than thirty seconds, and she and her band seemed to genuinely enjoy performing. It was an amazing, enjoyable night and, for me, has given KT Tunstall a firm place among my favourite musicians.