If Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall lived on our shores, she could undoubtedly generate her own entertainment empire, capitalizing on her adorable, dimpled face and girl-next-door charm with a sitcom and film roles. But the folk chanteuse showed herself to be a musician through and through, as she thrilled the capacity crowd at the Paradise Rock Club Friday night.
During a taut, 90-minute set that included most of her debut album, ''Eye to the Telescope," which has gone double-platinum in the UK, her deft four-piece backing band highlighted musical details sometimes lost on the album and provided a commanding showcase for the smoky resonance of Tunstall's voice.
From a jazzed up version of ''Miniature Disasters," which achieved the worn power of an old spiritual as Tunstall handled a broken string with aplomb, through the inflamed, slide guitar-laced stomp of her breakout US single, ''Black Horse and the Cherry Tree," Tunstall fronted her band with relaxed grace. Her backing musicians occasionally seemed left with little to do, as during the pretty but surprisingly flat ''Universe & U." But when Tunstall belted out her vocals during the lilting ballad, ''Under the Weather," and sang with crystalline clarity amid mournful trumpet and Moroccan-flavored percussion during ''Silent Sea," she infused even the night's understated moments with drama. New song ''Dirty Water" had a jazzy, '70s rock swing that recalled Steely Dan and suggested her songwriting is maturing. Tunstall further highlighted her range by playing keyboards during a take on Radiohead's ''Fake Plastic Trees," which contrasted her foggy voice against the rippling keys, and during set closer ''Suddenly I See," which was delivered as a joyous rave-up with a jungle beat that had the crowd dancing.
Tunstall closed her encore at the keyboard for the elegiac piano ballad ''Through the Dark," placing the focus where it belonged: on her versatile and expressive voice.
New York City-based singer-songwriter Chris Glover opened the night with a solo set that found his vocals achieving the knowing attitude of Elvis Costello, although his songwriting lacked such sophistication.