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VEGA, Cadogan Hall, London
16 June 2010
and the Cadogan Hall are well suited in terms of their understated
elegance and undoubted style.
of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, this Grade II listed building is
almost the prefect choice for the lyrical craft and lilting voice of
with a string quartet in tow the evening did have echoes of a Chamber
concert. But while the audience was enthusiastic if not at times quiet
to the point of being reverential, Suzanne's on stage demeanour - warm
and engaging but equally efficient and focussed - brought a mixture of
the humorous, the perceptive, the poignant and the inspired to fill the
rafters of the old building.
Ostensibly here to support a minimalist re-recorded collection of love
songs, Suzanne was taking no chances with the cavernous hall bringing
with her guitarist Gerry Leonard and long time bass playing MD Mike
Visceglia, as well as the Millennium String Quartet on a handful of
while there were few surprises and the bulk of the material tuned out to
be a career retrospective, it was the explanatory intro's and occasional
banter with the crowd that provided the fleeting insights into some of
the songs and their context.
She swept through the opening 'Marlene On The Wall', smiling briefly as
the audience recognised the opening line and finished with a brief
comment confirming that she considered it to be a love song; "The
opening line starts with, 'Even if I am in love with you'".
was a similar applause of recognition for the beautiful 'Small Blue
Thing' on which her clear diction and deliberate phrasing of , 'I am
thrown against the sky, I am raining down in pieces, I am scattering
like light' - with the emphasis on the closing ' t', swooped beguilingly
above Mike Visceglia's precise bass notes and Gerry Leonard's ethereal
put down her guitar and simply clicked her fingers on opening Bossa
groove of 'Caramel'. A tale of desire she asked playfully, 'you know
what the song is about don't you?' Looking around the room you suspect
everyone there probably knew all the intimate nuances of all her songs
And with the opening triumvirate from the new collection over, she
introduced 'Frank and Eva' as a song about "Frank Sinatra and Ava
Gardener who married, divorced and had a life long love affair, quite a
bit to get into 3 minutes" . But she dutifully managed it with some
lovely phrasing and a great rhythmic hook, 'Not Enough To Be in Love'.
Gerry and Mike added some stirring bv's, the crowd became almost
animated and then Suzanne introduced her special guests the Millennium
Overlooking the irony of her newly rediscovered minimalist folk approach
and the 7 musicians on stage, it quickly became apparent that this was a
well thought out move. And after toying with her audience about the
gender differences between various cities and towns, she made the most
of 'New York is A Woman'. The string intro and between verse fills was
very effect and doubly so on another Latin influenced highlight, 'The
Pornographers Dream'. The bowed instruments added a lilting sweep behind
the line, 'Out of his hands, over his head, Out of his reach, under this
real life, Hidden in veils'.
then as if remembering the new collection and by way of contrast, she
played 'Gypsy' in solo mode before another humorous stale of two boy ex
friends from New York and Manchester respectively, who provided the
contrastingly sad tale of 'Harbor'.
The one aspect about Suzanne Vega that is perhaps too often overlooked
is her real sense of presence. Yes she has the craft of a wordsmith, an
expressive textured voice that can swoop and soar by turns, but above
all she's never lost her coffee house folk roots.
a troubadour as happy telling a story or embellishing a song preamble.
On the guitar drenched 'Tombstone' the story involved burying a dead cat
on a burning raft as part of a viking funeral.
Guitarist Gerry Leonard meanwhile worked a psychedelic storm born of
echo, reverb and foot pedals as he evoked the fear and anger of 'Blood
Makes Noise'. It was the closest we ever got to rocking out.
Suzanne mentioned the 25th anniversary of her debut album as an opening
to 'Soldier & Queen', the poetic mediaeval love story with a twist that
didn't make it on to the new collection. She then added an unlikely but
very effective Zappa like rap on 'Neigbourhood Girls'.
finally it was into the home strait with full blown 'Some Journey' on
which the sextet filled the hall with the song's sense of urgency and
its undulating melody.
Suzanne finished with the big hitters 'Luka' and 'Tom's Diner', extended
her arms to receive warm applause. A case perhaps of the audience
mirroring the performer, in a triumph of the cerebral over the
by Pete Feenstra
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