KT Tunstall at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 31 October 2016
Lights go down, band walks out around 9pm and the performance begins. Right?
On any other night, this may very well be the case. But it’s Halloween and KT Tunstall definitely loves Halloween. The lights do go down, the band does come out at 9pm but as Thriller fills the speakers of a comfortably populated Olympia, the costumed band emerges followed by an unrecognisable Tunstall who is dressed as none other than a red jacket clad Michael Jackson, short black curls n’ all.
The show begins with If Only, the first of many songs from KT Tunstall’s sophomore album ‘Drastic Fantastic’. Not a song that would jump out as the most obvious choice to open a show with, it does rise to the occasion with the full power of a band behind it.
The Halloween pageantry of both the performers and some audience members adds a fresh layer to the show’s entertainment value. This is coupled with the addition of occasional ghoulish noises, thunder and eerie sound effects between songs which adds to the cheesy festive spirit of the evening.
Tunstall’s very natural capacity as a frontwoman is evident from the start.
Throughout the show she often regales the audience with many tales and anecdotes from her travels. Before playing Little Favours, she recounts having an encounter with the nicest guy in rock Dave Grohl at a festival in America who approached her, enthusiastically yelling “Tunstall! First song on your second album rocks!”. The Grohl seal of approval secures the tracks presence on the setlist.
Many songs from Tunstall’s latest album ‘KIN’ make an appearance, with each song holding their own against more household names on the setlist. The energy of a back to back performance of Maybe It’s a Good Thing and Evil Eye keep the blood flowing and indicate that the new material is at least as popular as much as the “classic” stuff.
After temporarily sidelining her guitar she expresses her discomfort at performing without it, but reassures the audience that she has watched lots of Adele videos on YouTube for practice. For the next song “we’re gonna turn the Olympia into an arena”, she says. Phone flashlights are held high and begin to sway gently as the audience assists Tunstall in a magical performance of Other Side of the World.
Later on she is left alone on stage for a solo performance of the folky Invisible Empire, before being rejoined by the band half way through a fiercely powerful solo rendition of Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.
Before concluding the main show with Saving My Face, Tunstall offers her very sincere thanks to the audience. She speaks very passionately and sentimentally about performing live. It is clear throughout the show that she has found her place as a live performer. She is a natural fit for a show that includes many upbeat anthems, as well as plenty of comedic banter between songs.
The encore includes Fade Like A Shadow, a truly rockin’ version of The Healer and finally, Suddenly I See. Before the finale Tunstall says “I believe the meaning of life is to enjoy yourself”. This comes across in her choice of songs for the setlist, both old and new, which all work together over a two-hour period to produce the desired effect. It is difficult to imagine anyone leaving the Olympia with any feeling other than enjoyment.