13th June 2012
Suzanne Vega is one of those rare introspective, observational, singer songwriters in the vain of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. She comes from the strong neo folk tradition that continued in Greenwich Village through the 70s and 80s where the likes of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan left off. She was part of the Fast Folk cooperative alumni that included Tracy Chapman and Shawn Colvin (who incidentally recorded backing vocals on Luka and also performed at the Union Chapel 6 years ago proving that the Union Chapel is well established as a great music venue for showcasing some of the best musical talent around and quite rightly was voted London’s best music venue in Time Out recently.)
Tonight at the Union Chapel that talent was evident. There was a real buzz surrounding her performance at this sold out concert. Vega took to the stage dressed in black and a multicoloured scarf looking every inch the boho 'Village' artist. The terrific Irish born musician, Gerry Leonard joined her on-stage playing electric guitar.
Her first song of the night was also her first hit, a fantastic rendition of Marlene On The Wall. She even donned a black top hat as a nod to her muse for the song, Marlene Dietrich. There is a real theatrical element to her performance, nothing showed this more than a a selection of songs based on the life and work American author Carson McCullers including the witty Harper Lee (as featured in her off Broadway musical play Carson McCullers Talks About Loveco-written with Duncan Sheik) and even a bit of pulpit dancing during Tom's Diner (hats off to Mr Leonard for managing to create a live version that closely resembled the DNA remix!)
The set also included a gutsy performance of Left of Center and Luka. Some twenty six years after she cut her first self titled album as a young hopeful. Suzanne still has that wonderfully understated soft voice which conveys her heart wrenching and powerful lyrics. Her legacy as a songwriter is highly influential, including the likes of Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos and Christina Perri.
Her influence is such that I would like to think that a new breed of folk/pop songwriters are sat in a New York cafe right now following in her footsteps.