At the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Sunday, May 4.
The Marjorie Luke Theatre made a great venue for this intimate and tuneful evening with singer/songwriter KT Tunstall. Although both Tunstall and her opening act, Paddy Casey, appeared to be more used to the raucousness of stand-up, alcohol-serving clubs, the warm, relaxed vibe at the Luke gave them the opportunity to explore the full range of their respective acoustic pop songbooks. Tunstall revels in the easy rapport she has developed with her devoted audience, and on this night she was particularly chatty, holding conversations from the stage with a variety of old friends and new acquaintances.
Casey has some of the same eclecticism going for him that makes Tunstall so appealing. While the acoustic guitar and keyboards setup implied a more folkie orientation, the music Casey makes is often closer to soul and country. His between-songs repartee seemed as though it was honed in front of a crowd of rowdy Irish drinkers, and it was clear at times that he didn’t quite know what to make of the mix of public-radio listening adults and well-behaved hipster teens that sat and paid attention to his every word.
In comparison, it was Tunstall’s set that proved more energetic and in tune with the crowd who, after all, had come to see her. The five-piece band shifted easily among a host of instruments. Kenny Dickinson showed his versatility by standing up from the piano to don a flashy metal washboard/necktie and blow a couple of sharp-muted trumpet solos. Guitarist Sammy Lewis played a host of stringed instruments, and even Tunstall herself got in on the act by switching guitars several times and even breaking in a brand-new 12-string, which she christened “Barbara,” presumably in honor of our town.
Tunstall sings country and rock ‘n’ roll with equal ease, even blending in some soul-Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”-without ever breaking the spell of her personality. Her between-song anecdotes ranged from the predictably self-deprecating to the bizarrely observational. (Who knew that Tunstall was a hit in the world of jazzercise class?) In any case, this was a beautiful evening, and the Luke continued to show great potential as a venue for alt-rock.