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KT Tunstall at the Rio Theatre

KT Tunstall at the Rio Theatre Vancouver

KT Tunstall at the Rio Theatre, Vancouver, Oct 17 2013. Jess Desaulniers-Lea photo.

Review and photos – KT Tunstall at the Rio Theatre, Vancouver, Oct 17 2013

– review and photos by Jess Desaulniers-Lea

On the last show of her 2013 North American tour, KT Tunstall played to sold-out show at the Rio Theatre Thursday night in Vancouver.

Standing tall in a Spaghetti Western-esque suit, she started the show by admitting, “I have been writing a lot of songs about death. I hope that’s alright.” To her delight, Vancouverites responded with cheering and whistling. She responded with, “That’s the first time I got death applause!”

A floor-to-ceiling canvas backdrop with two dashes of white and red war paint across it set the mood. Evocative of a desert landscape at sunset, the backdrop was representative of her latest release, the recorded-in-Tucson Invisible Empire/Crescent Moons.

Tunstall opened with new songs including “Invisible Empire”, “Carried” and “Old Man Song”. The latter, she said, was about a desert punk rock band in Tucson she knew.

She soared through each song without a shred of shyness and a stance that brought to mind the late Johnny Cash. Even with guitar, vocals and loop pedals for her only accompaniment, nothing about Tunstall seemed lonely or isolated on the tall Rio stage.

Other songs included “White Bird” off her acclaimed second album, Drastic Fantastic. The song earned the crowd’s complete awe and attention. Unlike the recorded version, which lends itself to a singalong, her live rendition was much more vulnerable as she layered lulling backups with her loop pedals in tandem to the beat.

After a few fan favourites, including “Under the Weather” off her debut album Eye to the Telescope and “Funny Man”, she took to the piano for a ballad, “Yellow Flower.” Tunstall, who’s mostly known for her guitar licks and loop pedaling, seemed equally perplexed as we did by her migration to the piano. “I never quite got a grip on this thing,” she told us, referring to the sheer weight and size of keyboards and pianos.

To our delight, Tunstall on the keys was a perfectly fitting way to manifest her recent gains and losses, including the death of her father.

Later, she indulged us in her biggest hit and the song that catapulted her into international stardom, “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree”. Mid-way through she pulled out a kazoo and launched into The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”.

For her encore, she sung her most radio-friendly hit “Suddenly I See”. “This is what happens when I thought about Patti Smith and Bo Diddley at the same time,” she said by way of introduction. She could’ve safely ended there, with her devoted fans dancing and cheering, but then she again doffed her guitar and went into the hymn-like “Chimes”. Once again, the song proved that Tunstall doesn’t reinvent as other pop/folk songstresses so famously do. Rather she reincarnates with the best of them – same soul, new form.

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