Suzanne Vega, Glasgow City Halls 21 June 2010
Last week I went through to Glasgow to see Suzanne Vega for the first time. She was supported by Duncan Sheik, another American singer/songwriter. I hadn't heard of him but rather liked his stuff and will be watching out for him in future.
Vega herself didn't disappoint: indeed she was better than I had dared to hope. Her most recent album is an "unplugged" revisiting of her best-known love songs, so she did a fair number of those. She also featured songs from her first album (Cracking, The Queen and the Soldier, and her opening number Marlene on the Wall) , as it had been released 25 years previously. And, of course, she did her most-requested songs such as Tom's Diner, Solitude Standing and Luka. She did I'll Never Be Your Maggie May, Tombstone, New York Is A Woman, Frank and Ava, In Liverpool, Blood Makes Noise. As my prior knowledge of her work had largely been confined to her first two albums, I was rather relieved that she hadn't suffered a major change of style over the past quarter century, nor it would seem any lessening of her songwriting talent.
Primarily, though, Suzanne Vega is a fantastic performer, whether with her accompanying guitarist and bassist or simply alone. She has an easy, relaxed way with the audience, chatting happily about her songs without ever becoming boring or self-absorbed. Every now and themn someone would shout out either a request or a supportive remark, and this being Glasgow she had a certain amount of fun with the fact that she frequently couldn't understand what was being yelled. (Neither could I some of the time, and I worked in Glasgow for four years and still visit regularly.) Which could have come across as patronising but in fact was simply taken as part of her charm. Charm, indeed, is the quality Suzanne Vega most obviously possesses: that, and talent.
Hearing Luka performed by her alone, or Tom's Diner with a percussive accompaniment from the band, I was struck by the way she has evidently not freeze-dried her hits but continues to reinvent them in performance.
Anyway, hell of a good gig. Whenever she's next in Central Scotland I'll be there.