I like what I’ve heard from KT Tunstall (you can listen to the songs off her debut album here.) When I heard she was going to be on Carson Daly, I tivo’d it.
It was actually pretty cool. Because she was performing solo, she laid down tracks of herself singing the backup, banging out a rhythm on her guitar, and hitting the tambourine so that she was her own backup singer and percussion section. I’d never seen that done before.
I couldn’t find a clip of that particular performance online, but here’s a different video of her doing the same thing.
Has anyone seen something like this before? I thought it was interesting, and showed creativity.
Oh yeah, tons of one man guitar type people have done that for a while. A lot of them will use audience members to provide some of the sounds and whatnot. This happens a lot in smaller venues. It’s always pretty fun to see, especially with how intricate it can get.
We’ve seen this type of thing done several times over the past few months. We saw KT Tunstall live in January at a small club in Chicago called Schubas. She had a drummer with her then but did much the same thing to fill the sound out. That show was being filmed, but I don’t know what for. We missed her (sadly) when she came back in April.
I’ve seen Charlotte Martin several times and it’s always been her alone at her portable keyboards, and the last couple of times she brought electronics with her to play with and fill out her sound.
Feist did this last September when we saw two shows in two nights, again at Schubas. She had a guitarist who played with her for a few songs but often it was just her. We saw her again in January but she was with the full band Broken Social Scene.
Zoe Keating, a singer/cello player (who plays with Rasputina) did this both times we saw her open for Imogen Heap this year. Sometimes it sounded as if an entire symphony of cellos was playing.
We saw Imogen Heap in January (at Schubas) and again in May (at Park West, much bigger and sold out) and she was alone for the most part. A couple of songs had Zoe Keating on cello. Imogen brings lots of electronics with her besides her two keyboards (one of them a “Mbira”-type instrument). She has voice box and a sound effects box and I don’t know what all else. It’s all controlled by a Mac that sits on top of her keyboard. This isn’t the best quality or performance, but you can see what she does on this video from the Letterman show. She’s just great in concert, much much better than that video might indicate, and she’s a nice person. I have a poster signed from when her first album came out and she opened for Rufus Wainwright.
I loved all of these recent shows, especially Imogen and Charlotte. What I REALLY love about this trend is that it’s a new way for female artists to go on tour without having to break the bank paying for a full band, and it’s getting people used to seeing it. If it’s a choice between not touring at all, or touring alone or with one other person, I’d much rather see the artist. Times have changed (apologies to backup musicians) and I’m glad of it. Female artists are showing that they don’t need a bunch of men behind them playing intruments, that they can put on a full show, and not necessarily a sensitive solo singer-songwriter-guitarist type show either, with themselves truly at the helm.
The first time I saw something like this was around 10 years ago with jazz great Herbie Hancock playing 2 computer linked concert grand pianos. He’d lay down a vamp which the other piano would pick up and then he’d solo off that. Being a virtuoso, the duet got pretty complex because he wasn’t just riffing off the same loop, but dynamically changing the accompanying piano’s parts by hitting some special keys on his own piano.
The overall effect was mind-blowing. It was on some PBS type show that I’ve always wanted to see it again but I’ve never had any luck finding out what it was. I’d love to see what Hancock could do with today’s techology and the ability to layer on an enormous number of loops and variations.