Home Live Review Live Review: KT Tunstall and Shawn Colvin @ Wolf Trap — 4/12/24

Live Review: KT Tunstall and Shawn Colvin @ Wolf Trap — 4/12/24

Live Review: KT Tunstall and Shawn Colvin @ Wolf Trap — 4/12/24
KT Tunstall (Photo courtesy the artist)

KT Tunstall and Shawn Colvin opened their joint performance at the Barns at Wolf Trap Friday with a cover of the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” It was an inspired choice, showing their range; while both have roots in the folk world, they easily move into pop and rock territory. They are unique, colorful characters who embrace a wide range of musical styles and influences.

Colvin and Tunstall met a few years ago at Girls Just Wanna Weekend, a festival in Mexico organized by Brandi Carlile. They performed together in a songwriters-in-the-round with Brandi, the Indigo Girls, and Maren Morris. Tunstall admitted she hadn’t heard Colvin before, and said she was gobsmacked at hearing her. For her part, Colvin said, deadpan, “I had heard of you.” This was the first of many fun and funny back-and-forths between these two delightful and highly spirited singer-songwriters. I found myself laughing several times during the show.

After “Psycho Killer,” KT introduced the next song, “Dear Shadow,” with the old chestnut, “Wherever you go, there you are.” She turned the song into a medley with “Summertime” from Ella Fitzgerald, who she called “my favorite singing teacher,” and Edie Brickell’s “What I Am.” Shawn teased that her fist song “is in a minor key, get used to it,” and played “Trouble.”

KT prefaced “Other Side of the World” with a fantastic story. She made her first video for the song. Her parts were filmed in London, while the her love interest — who she referred to as “generic hot sad boy” (a phrase that also describes me, except for generic) — had his parts filmed in New York. Thus, they never met. A few years later, she was in a bar getting a drink and there was the guy from the video. She blurted out, “You’re my pretend ex-boyfriend!” The man just stared at her, weirded out, and she realized he’d never watched the video and had no idea who she was. Fast forward to many years later, and some people helped KT tracked him down, and they met over a livestream. As it turned out, he had wanted to buy her a drink, but she was with someone.

Watch the official music video for “Other Side of the World” by KT Tunstall on YouTube:

Before she made her solo debut, Steady On, Shawn toured Europe as a backup singer for Suzanne Vega, who’d become hugely popular with her album Solitude Standing and the song “Luka.” When she met with Vega and her musical director at the start of the tour, they warned her to stay away from the drummer, but as Colvin explained, “I don’t like people telling me what to do.” (I can relate: one of my catchphrases is “No one tells me what I can and cannot do!”) So, naturally, she ended up with the drummer, and, predictably, it went south. (Similarly, KT married and divorced the drummer in her band.) Somehow, Shawn worked in great zinger, “I’ve been in therapy so long, forty-five minutes into the set, I start winding down.” Shawn’s experience in Europe inspired the travelogue “Polaroids.”

KT introduced her song “Alchemy” as a “deep cut.” It’s part of a set of songs she recorded for a CD she sold at shows, and is not available streaming anywhere. She promised to pay anyone who could sing along to it $100, which she didn’t have to make good on.

Shawn also talked about being a weird kid. Her mother, who was 23 when she was born, wanted a “girlie-girl,” but Shawn was a tomboy who loved playing in the mud. She also would hiss like a cat. KT then chimed in with a story about, how when she was four, she had very sharp teeth and bit another child, so she had to go to the dentist to have them filed down. “I could’ve had fangs!” she exclaimed.

Another offbeat cover, “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley, came from Shawn. KT followed that with another cover, Don Henley’s “The Boys of The Summer.” Then it was back to original songs: Shawn played “Cry Like An Angel” and KT did “The Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”

Watch Shawn Colvin play “Cry Like an Angel” live from home on YouTube:

Before playing “Sunny Came home,” Shawn explained that Steve Earle had called it the perfect breakup song, “because it’s a fuckin’ murder ballad.” KT played “Turn A Light On,” then Shawn sang “Suicide Alley.” The next two songs, KT’s “Through The Dark,” and Shawn’s cover of Tom Waits’s “Ol’55,” were played on the piano. KT finished the set with “Suddenly I See.”

KT told the audience, “We’re going to play a game. We’re going to pretend to leave, and you’re going to clap for us so that we feel appreciated and come back.” For their encore, Shawn and KT did two songs together: The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and the Bee Gees’ “Words.”

This was a really fun show. The music, interaction, and stories were great, with both artists showing off a lot of personality. Each has her own style, but they complemented each other well, both instrumentally and with fine vocal harmonies. And let me say: keep it weird, ladies!


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