Gig Review by Toni Woodward with Photography by Zoe Shannon

Suzanne Vega

The brief introduction of “From New York City, Miss Suzanne Vega“, sees Gerry Leonard take to an understated stage and begin looping guitar riffs and sounds to create a musical backdrop for Fat Man And Dancing Girl whilst an unassuming Suzanne Vega follows and begins delivering her warm vocal line.  No matter how many times you may have seen Vega, you cannot fail to be impressed by her calm and flowing voice which fills the Town Hall and draws you in no matter how far away from the stage you are sat. As the first song draws to a close, Vega places a top hat on her head for the spine tingling Marlene On The Wall. Later on in the set, she provides an explanation of the song noting that her perception of Marlene Dietrich’s views on “giving the goods away” were misguided but in many ways this was fortuitous as it provided her with a career spanning over thirty years.

Suzanne Vega

Leonard develops the guitar solo, extending it further than in the recording which adds to the climatic impact of the song. This run of older songs from her back catalogue continues as Vega proceeds with the Parisienne influenced Caramel, to which you can imagine her on stage in a smoke filled jazz club unleashing her reserved yet seductive vocals upon the audience culminating in a selection of held notes.  It’s at this point Suzanne Vega addresses the audience at length, explaining that it is the last night of the UK tour and the thirtieth anniversary of her first album. She converses with such ease throughout the set, often explaining the inspiration behind songs that allows the listener an additional level of understanding to her music and lyrical content.

Suzanne Vega

The next trio of songs are taken from her most recent album Tales From The Realm Of The Queen Of Pentacles which has the theme of tarot cards and is illustrated by Fool’s Complaint.  This upbeat number demonstrates Suzanne’s skill at crafting well-thought out songs that musically make sense.  Crack In The Wall receives a positive response from one member of the audience to which Vega responds with her usual charming wit and humour. All of these new songs see Leonard enhance them using his loop pedal and guitar with great effect, producing a sound that broadens and deepens the songs without competing with Vega’s vocal line.  The final track of the trilogy is Jacob And The Angel that sees Vega using accentuated clapping to compensate for the lack of percussion. Small Blue Thing sees a return to old crowd favourites and reveals Suzanne Vega’s ability to conjure up vivid imagery through her use of words, a theme that flows throughout her back catalogue.  The bonding with a fellow lover of Leonard Cohen is the underlying story to Gypsy which is relayed with self-deprecating humour that epitomises Vega’s presentation of songs, despite a minor error she continues to sing with such emotion that the track could have been written yesterday. It amazes me how Suzanne manages to remember all the lyrics especially with such lengthy tomes as The Queen And The Soldier with its detailed storytelling.

Suzanne Vega

Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain is a quirky number that sees the atmosphere of the hall change especially as Vega supplements the song with clapping to add to the pace.  After Neighbourhood Girls and Left Of Center, she returns to her latest album with I Never Wear White that sees a Vega move around the stage a little more building up to possibly the finest song of the evening, Some Journey. The exquisite delivery by both Suzanne and Gerry produces a truly beautifully sentimental piece of music.  After thanking the touring crew, Suzanne proceeds to thank Britney Spears and Fallout Boy for covering her music and I am sure increasing her revenue. We are encouraged to follow her on Twitter and Facebook as this provides information on a play which she is working on with Duncan Sheikh and her tireless campaigning for the charity Casa Alianza.

Suzanne Vega

The final two songs of the main set are Luka which is such an emotionally charged record due to its theme and the observational track, Tom’s Diner that sees Leonard add guitar based bells to the layered sounds.  Her exit from the stage is swift but then so is the break before her re entry to which she happily takes shout outs from the audience resulting in Night Moves followed by In Liverpool and the haunting Rosemary.  Every time I see Suzanne Vega, I am consistently reminded about the quality of her vocals, as she produces such a comforting, rich tone that pervades any space with tranquility and calm. Furthermore all her songs are cleverly compiled with thoughtful, sophisticated and often enchanting lyrics that make her an important voice to be heard on the folk circuit and certainly worth watching when she is next in town.

Suzanne Vega

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