KT Tunstall brings signature one-woman band to Birchmere in Virginia

The Scottish singer/songwriter is back on the road

Rare is the artist who can create a distinctive, full sound all by themselves. But KT Tunstall has done just that her entire career. And at the Birchmere on Thursday night (Dec 9th), Tunstall proved why she is the master of the one-woman-band.

Opening with, “It Took Me So Long,” Tunstall offered a variety of beats and melodies throughout the 13-song, 75-minute set. Tunstall’s custom Taylor black-and-white, lightning-bolted acoustic electric guitar ran through her myriad foot pedals for dozens of effects. When combined with her trusty Roland Handsonic, Tunstall is able to create unique rhythms for each song.

It is important to know how much Tunstall must keep in mind when performing. Watching her create a beat in real time to loop through her rig is completely enthralling. Everything and anything can be ran through the onstage rhythm factory at KT Tunstall show: a Harmonica, a guitar, even a Kazoo. And when the song itself finally begins, it’s like a kind of musical magic happening before our very eyes (or is it ears?)

One of the best examples of this was during the number “Heal Over.” Tunstall eschewed the electric guitar her tech brought her and instead fully immersed herself in the Roland kit. Complete with electric thereamin, watching Tunstall sing and create music was breathtaking. The echo effect on her microphone elevated the entire piece.

In between songs, The affable Scottish native regaled the crowd with stories. In one, she told of embracing her silvering hair. (The constant aggressive dying made her look like a “Lego” she said.) In another, Tunstall compared the meaning of a song to “realizing you’re not the only one walking around with a turd on your shoe.” (Trust me, it makes sense when you see her.)

Of course, a Tunstall performance is not complete without “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” for which she looped the “Whoo-Hoos” and a few other pieces of rhythm before encouraging the crowd to sing along. Tunstall also mashed up her first American hit with two other songs…but I won’t be spoiling the surprise.

Another Mashup, “Hold On” was paired with “Walk Like an Egyptian.” These juxtapositions demonstrate the origins of Tunstall as an artist: A rocker at heart who is unafraid of telling stories. She also covered “Closer to Fine” by Indigo Girls. The Latter closed out the main set before Tunstall left the stage. She jokingly called the process of letting the audience cheer for the Encore, “a spa treatment for the musician’s ego.” (And yes, I am stealing this from now on when I talk about the concept of the encore. It is a perfect analogy.)

In the encore, Tunstall covered The Pretenders’ “2000 Miles” before launching into her biggest hit, “Suddenly I See.” The crowd loved every second of it.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.

Email: matt@themusicuniverse.com