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KT Tunstall & Martin Sexton – Keswick Theatre – Glenside (A Concert Review)

KT Tunstall & Martin Sexton – Keswick Theatre – Glenside, PA – May 4, 2023

Folk-based singer songwriters KT Tunstall and Martin Sexton turned out to be a perfect pairing in their recent co-headlining gig in the Philly suburbs. Their individual styles both meshed and contrasted, making for a fine evening of smart and funny stories and tunes. Each artist performed solo, mostly on acoustic guitar (each artist did one song on piano, Sexton did a few on banjo and Tunstall also did some electric songs). Each did about 12 songs in their set, and then got together for a two-song encore.

Sexton took the stage first, mixing his homey storytelling with his sturdy voice and gentle guitar plucking. He luxuriated through a nice cross-section of his songbook, warbling (and as he pointed out, periodically yodeling) through the likes of “There Go I,” “Diggin’ Me,” “Freedom of the Road,” “Happy” and “Virginia.” Most relatable was one of his newest songs, the life-during-the-pandemic ballad “Hold On,” in which he sweetly catalogued all the things he did in his home with his family because suddenly the outside world had pretty much stopped.

Perhaps Sexton’s finest moment though was when he played his song “Hallelujah” (not to be confused with Leonard Cohen’s standard of the same name) and acknowledged that it followed a chord structure that was pretty much ubiquitous in pop music, and he proceeded to sing snatches of several other songs that had basically the same flow, including U2’s “With or Without You,” Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” and the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”

Sexton wasn’t the only one who acknowledged that sometimes songs can be – consciously or unconsciously – inspired by other songs. In fact, in her set, Tunstall said that she’d never really acknowledged something before, but in the Philadelphia area, the home of Rocky, she felt it was the right time. Therefore in the middle of her performance of her own song “Miniature Disasters,” Tunstall demonstrated how if you change a note or two you would get “Eye of the Tiger,” and she happily sang out a couple of verses and the chorus of that song for the audience.

“Eye of the Tiger” was only one of several pop covers that Tunstall weaved into her set, some of which were done as mashups of her own songs. When doing “Dear Shadow,” a new song that she had written with popular songwriter Cathy Dennis, she played a bit of Dennis’ hit Britney Spears composition “Toxic.” When doing her own hit “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree,” Tunstall incorporated a short break from The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.” And when she asked the audience if they would like a new song or a classic cover, she decided on both, playing her own “All The Time” and following it up with a propulsive run through Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.”

However, Tunstall did not skimp on her own music. She played a drop-dead-gorgeous version of “Other Side of the World,” as well as a spiky run through the forementioned “Miniature Disasters,” and the lovely new “All the Time.” By the time she closed her set with a propulsive version of her smash hit “Suddenly I See,” Tunstall had the crowd eating out of her hand.

Then, after a short call for an encore, Tunstall and Sexton came out together and duetted on sweet acoustic versions of the traditional standards “This Little Light of Mine” and “You Are My Sunshine.” It was an enlightening end to a wonderful night.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: May 6, 2023.

Photos by Jim Rinaldi © 2023. All rights reserved.


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