KT Tunstall | Credit: Pamela Littky

Now that we’ve worn out the word “unprecedented,” and heard that “this is something none of us signed up for” a thousand times, what’s left to say or do in the face of a pandemic that shows no signs of going away? If you’re musician KT Tunstall, there’s actually quite a lot. The acclaimed singer/songwriter will perform live on the Lobero Theatre stage this Saturday as part of the theater’s ambitious pay-per-view concert series, and she’s ready to rock, and even rave, with her many fans worldwide. Now in decade two of a brilliant, multifaceted career, Tunstall will be going back to the way she started out, appearing as a solo performer who, thanks to a pedal, some loops, and killer chops on electric guitar, sounds like an entire rock band. The show, which is available for purchase now at lobero.org, will stream at noon on Saturday, August 22.

When I spoke with Tunstall last week, she was enjoying the peace and freedom of her new home in Topanga Canyon. When the virus began to hit back in March, she was on tour in Europe with longtime friend Jools Holland, and she said that, as they drove through Austria to perform the last of their uncanceled dates, “it felt like the lockdown was chasing us.” After a massive 32-concert summer tour with co-headliners Squeeze and Daryl Hall & John Oates went the way of all such ventures during this hard-hit season, Tunstall was lucky to make it to London in time for one of the last flights out to Los Angeles.

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Since then, Topanga has served as the base for her increasingly sophisticated virtual operation, which includes a popular Patreon feed and lots of networking with fellow musicians and other music professionals. Tunstall expressed gratitude for the relative comfort and security she enjoys as a performer with a significant back catalog and income from royalties, while at the same time registering deep concern for the larger community of musicians and their support teams who are suffering because venues are closed. In the beginning, as people began to organize benefit concerts for pandemic relief, she admitted to experiencing “a complex emotional response to the expectation that musicians will be there for free.” In the weeks and months that followed, she found herself stepping up to perform for a variety of causes, including last weekend’s (De)Tour Charity Livestream with Ringo Starr and others that benefited both MusiCares and the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). A portion of the proceeds from Saturday’s Lobero show will also go to NIVA, which aims to keep smaller venues from going under until live music can come back.

For Tunstall’s core fan base, the pandemic has paradoxically provided unprecedented access to the performer and to each other. On Patreon, Tunstall has been holding a weekly KTRAVE party where people can come together and dance to techno, including some blistering remixes of Tunstall’s own music. Fans all over the world turn down the lights, get out the glow sticks, and dance along to deejay sets that Tunstall curates for them. On that level, Tunstall said that lockdown has been “a revelation,” adding that she has learned through Patreon that “my name is like a location” where like-minded people can meet and share experiences. It’s not all disco lights and beats, either. One week, she hosted a lesson in making Japanese pottery.

Tunstall looks forward to working with producer Byl Carruthers on the Lobero performance because it also offers new angles from which to make powerful connections with listeners. “It’s a view you wouldn’t get otherwise” she told me, “even if you were in the front row.” With close-ups and multiple cameras operating simultaneously, the production promises to reveal yet another side of this prolific creator and help us all weather the absence of live music just a little longer.

411: KT Tunstall will perform a live streaming show Saturday, August 22, at noon. Tickets are available at lobero.org.

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