Suzanne Vega Sage Gateshead 18 February 2023

“My name is Luka, I live on the second floor, I live upstairs from you, Yes, I think you’ve seen me before If you hear something late at night, Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight, Just don’t ask me what it was…” (Vega, 1987)  A great song which rings round and around in my head before, during and after this great concert.

VEGA TIXSuzanne Vega kept passing me by, or rather, I foolishly kept passing her by. Each time she played locally, usually at the Sage, I thought of going along, and then some reason made excuses to myself to pass. She was one of several artists over the years who, for no particular reason, I liked and yet I never took the time to go and see them in concert. Well, I have come to the decision that in future I will try and catch up on as many of those artists as I am able.

VEGA4The song “Luka” rings round in my head as the concert grows nearer. I listen to her music on my friendly intelligent assistant, Alexa, and find that I know quite a few of her songs, which surprises me a little. Suzanne Vega emerged from the folk scene of Greenwich Village, New York, in the early 1980s; with her pure voice, a clutch of songs and an acoustic guitar. Her songs drew from storytelling each one weaving its own picture and enticing the listener to think about the content. She released her self-titled, highly acclaimed debut album in 1985. From the Sage website: “Known for performances that convey deep emotion, Vega’s distinctive, “clear, unwavering voice” (Rolling Stone) has been described as “a cool, dry sandpaper-brushed near-whisper” by The Washington Post, with NPR Music noting that she “has been making vital, inventive music” throughout the course of her decades-long career.…….[she]………“observes the world with a clinically poetic eye” (The New York Times), Vega’s songs have tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real-world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, her work is immediately recognizable—as utterly distinct and thoughtful as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 30 years ago.”

VEGA1Like her songs, the stage set is minimal and she’s accompanied by a single, excellent, electric guitarist. She starts, well, at the start (where else to start?) with “Marlene on the Wall” and moves through a mixture of old and new tunes each one telling its own story. She is not afraid of bearing her soul, telling us of a teenage love affair at summer camp, initiated through a mutual admiration of Leonard Cohen and his music. She told the guy not to contact her again, and wrote a song to mark the affair. But he reappeared via a note and a bunch of flowers at a concert in Liverpool one night. This sparked another song and a lifelong friendship. They meet for lunch regularly. Her set, like her songs, is full of similarly quite personal stories. She alternates between her acoustic guitar, a lovely dapper top hat and a quirky little finger clicking dance. Wonderful. (Note to myself. One day I must summon up the courage to wear the battered old top hat I bought some time ago on eBay. Or maybe not: perhaps I will silly or too eccentric, unlike Vega).

VEGA2Do we like Blondie or Lou Reed? The Lou Reed vote wins (and includes Vega’s own vote) so we are treated to “Walk on the Wild Side”. I recognise many more songs than I expect. “Tom’s Diner” gets into my head and sticks there. “Da da da da…….” Not a bad way to end an evening.

I’m pleased I made the effort Suzanne. There is a depth and honesty within the simplicity of your stories. Thanks for sharing them with us. “Luka” comes back into my mind. So does the top hat. Maybe I will decide to wear it one day after all. Thanks again for a lovely evening and thoughts of my top hat.

VEGA5Setlist: Marlene on the Wall; Small Blue Thing; Caramel; Gypsy; In Liverpool; The Queen And The Soldier; When Heroes Go Down / Lipstick Vogue; Rock in This Pocket (Song of David); Last Train from Mariupol; Solitude Standing; Left Of Center; I Never Wear White; Some Journey; Luka; Tom’s Diner;

Encore: Walk on the Wild Side; Tombstone; Rosemary

2 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Peter. I haven’t heard much past the first album which always makes me think of Joni. Mitchell. Glad you had a good night. Pete

    Reply

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