KT Tunstall at Royal Albert Home: intimate gig gives new life to the hits
In such surreal times music remains a constant that has never been needed more by our generation. The doors of the Royal Albert Hall are, of course, closed, but the iconic venue has opened a virtual window with their home sessions. While the performances are free, donations are greatly encouraged to help the RAH look after its staff and its beautiful building. Tonight’s exclusive gig was broadcast live from LA, the current home of Scottish singer- songwriter KT Tunstall.
How does an artist known for her onstage energy fare with a simple acoustic guitar and no one to offer her an immediate response to feed off? The answer is incredibly well. Tunstall is effortlessly engaging, immediately explaining that her “show sweat” is in fact the result of the humid LA heat. Revealing it’s her first ever gig in slippers, she encourages the Royal Albert Hall to host a huge pyjama party when this is all over. It’s this friendly rapport that allows the gig to feel so inviting and intimate. The pandemic is, of course, the reason why the performance is taking place, and it meanders its way through the evening, with songs taking on new meanings as a result. Opening number Heal Over resonates more than ever and feels life-affirming and inspirational.
Tunstall explains that rather than drawing up a set list she’s simply going to play what she feels. This adds to the authenticity of the performance and injects a sense of spontaneity. That said, each song is well chosen and well placed, with the slower numbers swiftly followed by more up-tempo tracks. There’s a certain swagger and attitude to Another Place to Fall, and after joking that her water is a beaker full of gin, Tunstall dedicates Black Horse and Cherry Tree to the coronavirus. The old is entwined with the new, with Backlash and Vinegar from 2018’s Wax an early highlight.
Wax and 2016’s Kin are two in a trilogy of albums that focus on Body, Soul and Mind. Tunstall tells us that the final part of the trilogy is delayed due to the virus, but provides us with the world debut of Anything At All. She then heads back to Drastic Fantastic, again ensuring an up-tempo track follows a quieter tear-jerker. If Only is another highlight and is followed by On My Star, which demonstrates Tunstall’s impressive vocal range.
The most obvious song to, in Tunstall’s words, pertain to us all more than usual is of course her classic Other Side of the World, which focuses on long-distance relationships. It’s beautifully sung and more powerful and evocative than ever, but there’s something a little sad when the singer orders us to get our phone torches and lighters out, which makes us long even more for real life gigs again.
One advantage of such a stripped-down set is that it truly showcases Tunstall’s songwriting prowess. We can really hear and feel the lyrics, and throughout we are reminded of just how many hits she has put out. Stoppin’ the Love has Tunstall creating a jazz band with her mouth (seriously), before we glide into what is arguably her most well-known track. Suddenly I See forms a fitting finale to this energetic and absorbing hour, which leaves us uplifted and excited to get back out into the world again and embrace all we have missed.
Photo: © Royal Albert Hall
Watch the video for If Only here: