Tunng’s U.S. tour kicked off with a lively performance at a packed Mercury Lounge on Thursday. Pared down to a trio (half of the usual) for this tour, with singer Mike Lindsay on acoustic guitar, singer Becky Jacobs on keyboards/electronics and Martin Smith mastering a menagerie of percussion that included chimes, bells, shakers and shells (but no drum kit), the London collective were not short on charm as they churned out a quirky set blending folk, pop and electronic elements.
Drawing heavily from the most recent album, …And Then We Saw Land (which has earned the band comparisons to Efterklang), the set started off with “Don’t Look Down or Back,” followed by an old crowd favorite, “Take.” With a line borrowed from a-ha’s hit “Take On Me,” another new song, “With Whiskey,” was jokingly dedicated to opening act Charles Atlas, as Lindsay remarked “because we love them and we know he likes whiskey.”
The band’s performance on the catchy instrumental, “By Dusk They Were In The City,” was as moving as it was comical, with gorgeous mouth accordion harmonies from both Jacobs and Smith, while Lindsay donned a mask and acted out a rock god moment, complete with an electric guitar solo. The crowd, loving every minute of it, cheered on, as Jacobs commented in the end, “He doesn’t need any encouragement.” The trio rocked out on the ending of “Hustle” before closing with another old hit, “Bullets.”
The humorous radio samples and the trio’s onstage antics were amusing, from Lindsay’s and Jacobs’s step dance moves and the freeze frame moment during the “who’s sorry now” sample in “Tale From Black,” to all three of them demonstrating the “smoking sausage illusion” as a sample of the hypnosis-like instructions played out. Tunng was thoroughly entertaining and they left the crowd chanting “encore” (sadly to no avail).-- Teresa Sampson