The “Universe & U” wasn’t exactly on KT Tunstall’s side, at least technologically, during her first tour stop in Columbus on Wednesday night. Despite that, Tunstall’s stage presence and charm instilled in the small crowd at A&R Music Bar a feeling that was displayed right on her shirt: “Choose Love.”
The show’s opener, Kelvin Jones, is an up-and-coming musician whose greatest single, “Call You Home,” gained him international attention after being played on “Good Morning America.” Jones played this song very early in his set, and though I’m used to hearing the tune with a full ensemble, he set the tone for the rest of the night with the tranquil intimacy of just a guy and his guitar on stage.
Jones spoke of the exciting beginnings of his career, in which he was invited to attend the ECHO awards in Germany one year, where he had heard The Weeknd would be in attendance. From there, he did an acoustic cover of “I Can’t Feel My Face,” a tune that lit up many faces in the small crowd of roughly one hundred.
Tunstall’s performance was just as eclectic as her metallic tights and signature silver-sparkled Gretsch electric guitar, which sat as a beautiful stage ornament for the better part of the show. The stage was filled with instruments, but instead of her regular touring band, the full band sound was achieved with the help of multiple pedals and loops as a one-woman-show. She opened her set with one of my personal favorites, “Miniature Disasters,” a tune from her first album that reflects on small anxieties and distractions that she must overcome so they don’t affect her success. It’s a fun, upbeat tune, and the crowd was overjoyed to hear an old favorite.
After some stumbling with her brand-new looper, having to stop and restart the song a few times, the audience got to preview one of her newer tracks, “Maybe It’s A Good Thing.” The song’s title reflects just how I felt about every tiny mistake in her set — whether it was a forgotten lyric or a dropped loop in the performance, Tunstall’s personality outshined those errors.
“Adele forgets her words, and her tickets are much more expensive,” she jokingly apologized.
The crowd remained empathetic. After all, it’s completely forgivable to have a few kinks to iron out during an artist’s first tour stop. That factor, combined with Tunstall’s quirky personality accompanied by an charming Scottish accent, and the intimacy of the show setting only entrenched fans’ adoration of her throughout the night.
Tunstall’s quirks didn’t stop there. Before the final chorus of her smash hit “Black Horse and The Cherry Tree,” she used her sound board to loop the powerful theme to “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes, as played by her on a kazoo. Yes, a kazoo — one of those childish instruments about which we merely joke and reminisce about these days. Laughter and cheers erupted among the crowd in the tiny bar.
Finally, after teasing the audience with an encore, Tunstall joked that she thought she had one more song she hadn’t played yet — but not before thanking the crowd for supporting her and buying tickets. She harkened back to the beauty and frustrations the internet has provided for musicians like her. She said there’s much more content available at our fingertips, but not necessarily more time or money to consume it all.
“You might go home to some shitty little videos on your phone, but it’s not the same as being here,” she said.
From there, she closed with a powerful performance of “Suddenly I See,” which made me think back to the impact Tunstall had on my motivation to learn to play guitar when I was 10. Everything from her soft, alto voice to her enthusiasm to produce and embrace sounds from many instruments at once led me to want to achieve an understanding of her style of music, and “why the hell it means so much to me.”