Shows billed as “solo acoustic” usually have a laid-back, mellower-than-mellow feel, but Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall, more a one-woman band than girl with a guitar, turned that cliché on its head Tuesday night in Gotham with a performance that was as raucous as any she’d delivered with a full band.
That has a lot to do with Tunstall’s deceptively simple palette of equipment — one that, besides her guitar, involves an array of triggers and loops that allow her to double, triple and quadruple vocal lines, handclaps, foot percussion, indeed, virtually any sound she makes.
She took full advantage of that in showcasing most of the songs from her upcoming Virgin release, “Tiger Suit,” due in late September. Tunstall frontloaded the 70-minute show with tunes from that disc, including a muscular rendition of the angular “Uummannaq Song” and a jaunty read of the Kinks-ish character study “Madame Trudeaux.”
“Tiger Suit” marks something of a departure for Tunstall, seeing as its electronic trappings mark a distancing from the coffee-house roots that helped lodge songs like “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See” in the Adult Contemporary charts for more than a year. Those songs also got a revamp on this evening, particularly the latter, which Tunstall outfitted with a throbbing middle section inspired by Patti Smith’s version of “Gloria.”
While the newer material certainly appeared intentionally more rough around the edges, Tunstall hasn’t lost her puckish charm — evident in her gently snarky between-song banter and in the odd-girl-out lilt of “Still a Weirdo,” a piece that had a good swath of the audience singing along with the last chorus despite its unfamiliarity.
Like a good many artists, Tunstall suffered through a wicked sophomore slump after the multi-platinum worldwide sales of her debut, “Eye to the Telescope,” which was heavily mined by TV shows like “American Idol” and movies like “The Devil Wears Prada.” But judging by the first-look response of those gathered — which, granted, was heavy on true believers — “Tiger Suit” looks to be a revitalizing effort.
KT Tunstall performs tonight at the Hotel Café in Los Angeles.