20/10/2010 | KT Tunstall – Shepherds Bush Empire, London

Lisa Ward

‘I’m back, with some great new shizzle’ KT Tunstall proclaims just seconds after arriving on stage before launching headfirst into tracks from her latest album, Tiger Suit. The opener Glamour Puss puts the emphasis on ‘new’, its vibe being far more keyboard driven than any of her former works and the preceding Unmmannaq Song follows it in a similar fashion. With the added backing vocals and shift from the guitar driven sound earlier fans might be used to, she delivers songs which sound like she’s shut herself up in a studio with MGMT. For the most part this works and when she delivers Difficulty and Push That Knot Away later in the set, with both gumption and bass heavy beats, the crowd seem enamoured with what she has to offer.

It’s a far cry then from the acoustic based Eye To The Telescope and even the delivery of Hold On from the more rocky Drastic Fantastic album seems out of place. Whilst the emphasis is added to the drum beats it seems almost lacklustre but this serves to add welcome variation to the set. For the most part the desire to step away from being pigeonholed as ‘female acoustic’ does her no harm and the innovation of the Tiger Suit songs brings them to life far better in a live setting, that they do on the album. Nevertheless this desire to tinker holds a few casualties along the way. The delivery of False Alarm is ruined by the extra performers, the classic ballad being spoilt no end by superfluous backing vocals, whilst Lost which dazzles in album format becomes too fussy, the backing too high for KT vocals and the melodies too elaborate for the sound to work.

It’s a joy then, to see KT lose the band for a small while and whilst she still offers a keyboard version of Other Side Of The World, the simplicity of its alteration gives it new life. As she then begins to set up her loop pedal for Black Horse And The Cherry Tree the audience’s reaction marks why most have come, and here the combination effect which sees her band reappear midway through transforming the end into a full scale electronic mix, grants them nothing but pure delight. Suffice to say that whilst there may have been a couple of weak spots within the set, they are more than counterbalanced by the likes of The Entertainer and Saving My Face, both seeming more worthy of a space on an arena size stage.

For those who’ve seen KT before, there’ll be an awareness that her stage banter is half of her charm and as she marvels being heckled for not wearing a fluffy ginger animal hat that is flung her way, it’s fair to say she hasn’t lost this spark. In fact all it takes is an encore containing a haunting rendition of Heal Over coupled with a cover of Erasure’s Little Respect (which she describes as her guilty pleasure) and the troublesome tracks fade from memory. Not even technical faults in the finale Suddenly I See can stop KT from bringing the crowd to their feet and given the power and passion of the entire set, it’s an ovation which is undoubtedly deserved.

www.kttunstall.com