4 May 2014
Last night the nuggetty Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall finished up the world tour for her new album Invisible Empire Crescent Moon in Wellington. She has local ties - her first tour manager when she hit the big time was a New Zealander, who later moved back to Wellington and bought Bodega, the venue for her performance.
Tunstall, a native of St Andrews, burst onto the pop scene with a stirring performance on Later With Jools Holland in 2004, stomping out her immediate busking star turn, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, which wowed the live TV audience. (It's still captivating viewing, and rare to see those crosses to the other performers on the bill, including Robert Smith of the Cure). Her best-selling album Eye to the Telescope cemented her success and earned her four top 40 singles in the UK, with Suddenly I See peaking the highest at number 12 in September 2005. It's this album that New Zealand fans know best, and Tunstall peppered the setlist with the crowd-pleasing hits, to great effect.
This tour saw Tunstall performing solo, as in her busking days, using loop effects to build up multi-tracked live instrumentation. Her inventive use of this technology in live performances must be heaven for the music geeks, and helps to hold the audience's attention and maintain energy levels in what can sometimes be challenging circumstances for a solo spot. She also throws in judiciously-selected covers like her well-liked segue into Seven Nation Army during the bridge of Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, Default by Thom Yorke's 'other' band Atoms For Peace, and touches of classic 80s pop in the Bangles' much-loved Walk Like An Egyptian and a surprisingly effective and non-ironic cover of Don Henley's Boys of Summer. My favourite song of the evening - other than the well-known hits - was her performance of Madame Trudeaux (sic.) from Tunstall's 2010 album Tiger Suit. This Simon & Garfunkel-like strummer, co-written with Linda Perry, lauds the exploits of the wife of Canadian premier Pierre Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau, who allegedly disappeared for several days with the Rolling Stones on tour just before a general election. Here's a 2010 performance from up close in Glasgow.
Tunstall put on a fine show, and entertained throughout with her friendly banter with the crowd. They even forgave her tour-addled references to the audience as 'Auckland' from the stage, which only goes to show the lengths to which Wellington audiences will go to make much-liked travellers welcome.
Earlier, the support act proved to be the find of the night. Wellington songstress Estère impressed with her MIA and Janelle Monae-influenced wonky electro-pop and self-assured stage presence. Not only can she write and sing admirably, Estère can also cut a fine shape in the dancing department. Definitely one to watch, and you should definitely download her new 7-track mini-album on Bandcamp.
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