Islington Assembly Hall is a small events venue on Upper Road, just beyond the Union Chapel and connected what is likely to be to the posh bit of the London Borough of Islington’s property holdings. It’s an unlikely event for a rock gig on account of it looking like an ornate school hall, an effect that the lines of municipal, faux velvet covered metal seats did little to put pay to. During the course of her hour and a half on stage, KT Tunstall made several remarks about the beauty of the venue, so I expect that from the front of the hall, high up and on stage, she got a better impression than I did, sat underneath the balcony next to the makeshift bar and sound deck. The gig was also being recorded for release as an album, so I expect she was keen to ensure that her appreciation of the place was also recorded for posterity.
Tunstall’s new album, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, was released a week before this short, intimate tour of the country. It’s a fragile and delicate thing and, one suspects, deeply personal to her following the death of her father and break up of her marriage. It harks back to the gentler elements of her debut, Eye to the Telescope, and follows on where The Scarlet Tulip EP began, a stripped back sound reliant on plucked strings and a strong voice. It would be interesting to see how she’d perform live, alone – how much of this new direction would be performed, how much would she rely on the old favourites and how would she deliver the set without a backing band?
Following the able support of Brian Lopez, a contributor to IE//CM, KT walked on stage before the lights dipped, causing a little confusion and a delayed round of applause. Once acknowledged, she introduced the ‘gateway’ track to the new record, ‘Invisible Empire’.
Always a consummate performer and entertainer, KT did not disappoint through the set, which was indeed largely drawn from the new record. She was characteristically upbeat in between songs, but generally sombre in delivery. She introduced ‘Carried’ as a ‘song about death’ and looped a wonderful version of Don Henley’s ‘Boys of Summer’. The five hundred or so within the venue whopped and hollered thoughout, creating a great atmosphere for the live recording. ‘Black Horse’ received the loudest cheer, and morphed into ‘Seven Nation Army’ in it’s closing salvo. ‘Funnyman’ some pace, with KT acknowledging a debt to Austrian pop monkey, Falco. Was she for real?
Of course, there was a deserved encore, and a turn at the keyboard for ‘Crescent Moon’ and ‘Through the Dark’ before a beautifully delivered ‘Chimes’ which was allowed to echo and fade as KT left the stage to much love and deserved warmth.