KT’s Coronavirus Compromise
Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall was all set to make her Santa Barbara debut at the Lobero Theatre on January 8, back when COVID-19 barely had a name, just the novel coronavirus that seemed to be contained in China. Then illness forced the show to be postponed and rescheduled for October. But the coronavirus crisis has resulted in the cancellation of all live performances in front of an audience in venues of any size, and that restriction looks like it will persist through the fall.
So instead Tunstall will be the second artist to participate in the Lobero’s lockdown-launched series of low-priced live-streamed concerts that take place without an audience and with strict safety and COVID-19 sanitation protocols in place. The viewing window for the solo virtual concert begins at 12 noon on Saturday, August 22, and ticket holders will be able to view the 75-minute show using Vimeo anytime within 72 hours after the show.
Tunstall, who emerged in 2004 with Eye To The Telescope, spawning a career that has since included five more critically acclaimed albums with total sales in the millions – hasn’t been sitting on her hands waiting for things to change. In fact, she’s been washing them, or rather actively encouraging others to do so via a danceable topical song called “Wash Ya Hands” that features a beatbox breakdown from electro-pop singer-songwriter and four-time UK Beatbox Champion Grace Savage. The lyric video for the song, which was released on June 8, stars KT and invited fans to submit footage to become part of the collective experience that resulted in an updated version later in June.
That followed the May use of her song “The Healer” as the soundtrack for her friend and legendary Hollywood stunt professional Zoe Bell’s video for an all-female Hollywood quarantine Fight Club known as #BossBitchFightChallenge. Featuring Cameron Diaz, Scarlett Johansson, Margot Robbie,and Halle Berry among many other stars, the video finds the ladies kicking each other’s butts through clever editing as Tunstall’s song plays in the background.
Being aligned with women-related issues is nothing new for the Grammy-nominated Tunstall, whose first hit single, “Suddenly I See,” written about Tunstall’s reaction to the photograph of Patti Smith on the cover of her album Horses, was used in the opening credits of the empowerment comedy.
“I’d seen the album cover many times before, but that one time I was looking at it, at about two am in my basement flat in London, trying to make it (in music), I was so taken by her gaze,” Tunstall told me back in January. “She wasn’t trying, she was just being. There’s almost a challenge in how self-assured she seems. I really aspired to that state of ‘being’ rather than ‘trying.’”
More than 15 years later, Tunstall is two-thirds through a trilogy of albums around the themes of soul, body, and mind that, ironically, seem even more apt in the age of our “new normal.”
“KIN was all about the spirit overcoming existential obstacles,” Tunstall explained about the first album in the trilogy, which should be completed some time next year. “They are all endlessly fascinating subjects.”
Sunday’s show at the Lobero is a rare solo gig, and will now have a very different vibe given that the theater will be empty save for the very socially separated skeleton crew that includes four camera operators. It will be interesting to see how Tunstall copes with the challenges, as she told me back in January that at the band-less concerts, “I end up talking to the crowd more since I’m not able to replicate the complexity that I’ve crafted on my records. But my loop pedal and gadgets create the same kind of vibe as a full band, so I can still whip up a good party vibe even when it’s a solo show.”
Or, even one in which she’s truly alone?
Maybe even better, at least for the audience at home, Tunstall suggests in the promo video for the event on the Lobero’s website.
“When you buy a ticket to a show, even if you’re in the front row, you can’t see super up close what I’m doing,” she says. “But at this show you’ll be sitting on my shoulder seeing exactly what I’m doing every minute.”
(Tickets for KT Tunstall’s live-streamed Lobero concert on August 22 are $15 each. Proceeds go towards supporting the theater during the COVID crisis, and a donation will be made to NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association to assist similar halls. Visit www.lobero.org.)