Kyle Thomas, who goes by the stage name King Tuff, brought a slice of Vermont life to Boston on Thursday night at The Sinclair. Thomas and his four-piece band consisting of a bass, lead guitar, keyboard, and drums, delivered a high-energy, varied, and ultra-fun set, which showed off his newly released album, Smalltown Stardust.
Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with an ash-gray felt overcoat, loose dangling tie, and black baseball cap, he personified the stereotypical Vermonter look. He and his band kicked off the concert with the titular song from the album, “Smalltown Stardust.” Not knowing what to expect from his rugged, traditional-looking Vermont band, the crowd was hesitant to dance and sing at first.
“Jeez you guys are quiet. This isn’t the Boston I remember going to!” Thomas said.
But quickly the crowd warmed up to him as he played through a couple more songs and proved himself as a multi-instrumentalist, playing both the electric guitar and keyboard. By the time he got to “How I love,” an easy-going groove interspersed with dreamy electric guitar licks, he clearly had the audience in his pocket. His laid-back charm and his band’s extremely high-quality sound set the audience at a comfortable ease as it drifted into Thomas’ rustic world, evocative of a cold Vermont stream and a warm evening by the fire.
He then delved further into his catalog, drawing from various types of songs—some were introspective and reminiscent tracks while others were blistering, head-banging rockers. He seemed to be reminiscent throughout the night, remarking on his past time spent at the famous Harvard Square Pit, and mentioning his lead guitar player’s status as a Berklee College of Music drop-out.
“Look at him now!” he joked.
An hour in, the show took a wild turn. Claiming that he had forgotten something backstage, he snuck off for a few minutes while the other three members of the band stalled. Then, he emerged from the shadows dressed as a wizard in a satin pink robe adorned with an emerald sash. His wizard outfit was complete with a pointed green wizard hat on his head and aviator sunglasses on his face.
Suddenly the traditional Vermonter had become a fantastical wizard of rock. It was downright hilarious.
“I will still be a freak once I’m dead,” he exclaimed before launching into “Freak When I’m Dead,” a proclamation of his unapologetic weirdness. Once quiet and reserved, the audience was now expressive and free, taking his irresistible strangeness and running with it.
At the end of the show, he and his band thanked the audience and went backstage, but the lights stayed dimmed. After a few minutes of the stage being empty and pleading chants from the audience, he walked back out onto the stage by himself to play one more song.
This one was called “I Love You Ugly,” a song about someone he loves even if they might “smell like rats,” a detail he juxtaposed with Boston, saying that it has more beautiful people than anywhere else.
Finally, he coaxed his band into coming out with him too, and they played one final song, “Bad Thing.” King Tuff and his band then withdrew, perhaps leaving the audience feeling a little more relaxed and a lot more empowered.