Concert review – Suzanne Vega

31 01 2011

Suzanne Vega
Sunday, January 30
McPherson Playhouse, Victoria

Mention Suzanne Vega to anyone under 35 and you are likely to get a blank stare.  Now start humming to the tune of “Tom’s Diner” and you’ll catch the attention of young music lovers of almost any creed. Last night McPherson Playhouse hosted Suzanne Vega’s first ever appearance in Victoria and the only Canadian date on her retrospective Close-Up tour. She strolled on stage in a classy suit; lips painted a familiar bright red. With a graceful smile she was immediately in control of the audience, a strong contrast to the raw performances of the 2011 Victoria Idol finalists who opened for her.

Suzanne Vega by Keely J. Dakin

Launching into a couple of her love songs, Vega wryly recounted that one reporter didn’t agree that these were love songs, “‘Marlene On the Wall’ is not about love, it’s about angst,’” Vega grins, “and the difference is?”

Playing a combination of her best known works, (“Luka,” “The Queen and The Soldier,” “Tom’s Diner,”) with a few newer pieces, Vega was backed up on electrical guitar by Dublin-raised Gerry Leonard. Vega’s voice was strong and soothing, though occasionally the guitar overpowered her lyrics.

Best known for her musical storytelling, Vega has had a long relationship with theatre as well.  Near the end of the night she played a song from the play, Carson McCullers Sings About Love, which will premiere in April at New York City’s Rattlestick Theatre.

It wasn’t a full house, but the energy from the audience was strong, giving a warm, nostalgic feel to the night. She carried the audience through her often depressing songs, with laughter and humour as a welcome counterbalance.

—Keely J. Dakin

Keely J. Dakin is a student in Western Academy’s Written Image journalism program. You can see more of her work here.

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7 responses

31 01 2011
Lana Rud

Yes, Suzanne Vega was absolutely mezmerizing with her poetry set to music. It had been a long time since I had listened to her music in the eighties. It rekindled my appreciation for her.

I was one of the members of the audience with a daughter performing in the opening act. I would not say these young musicians performed in contrast to Suzanne. Of course they do not have the experience and comfort level Suzanne has on the stage, however, they are truly talented young up and coming musicians. It would have been worthy of a comment in your review.

Hopefully in the future you could write something in support of our young local talent!

31 01 2011
Elly

I’d like to thank ETM Live for chosing six of the Re/Max Victoria Idol 2011 Finalists to open for Suzanne Vega. These six finalists, although not professional and haven’t had as much experience onstage as Ms. Vega, performed well and had the audience mezmerized. The songs were hauntingly beautiful – you could hear a pin drop in the theatre. Their songs were not a contrast to Suzanne Vega’s but more complimentary to her style of singing.

The young man who played the acoustic guitar, Jon Baglo, played a wonderful rendition of Andy Mckee’s ‘Drifting’. The audience went crazy after his performance.

When Suzanne Vega came onstage, the audience was warmed up and ready for her performance. She sang some beautiful songs interspersed with stories explaining how she came up with the ideas for writing the songs. It brought home a familiarity and the audience was drawn into her performance.

It was a lovely evening filled with some fantastic entertainment and one that makes me proud to have been a part of. Victoria has some very talented up and coming talent that deserves to be showcased.

1 02 2011
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1 02 2011
Shannon Spears

I’m an avid Vega fan and have been following her music for years so when I heard that she was making her first stop in Victoria I jumped at the chance to see her live (something I’ve been dying to do for longer than I can remember) and I must say that without a doubt the concert exceeded my expectations, which after years of anticipation, were pretty darn high. I was also thrilled to see Suzanne played a song from her new musical which I’m eagerly awaiting the debut of. I do have to say however, I was a little skeptical when I heard that the opening act would be compiled from this years Victoria Idol but was pleasantly surprised at how well some of them performed. Not at all would I say they were in contrast to Suzanne’s ease on stage. Obviously some seemed more comfortable than others but theres no denying that a few really stood out and as a whole and I quite enjoyed the variety of performances. Perhaps I’m a bit biased as I teach piano to many young aspiring musicians but I think that its a wonderful idea to infused local talent with big names. The night kicked off with a energetic intro by one of the idol contestants who absolutely took me with her songs about a homeless man, fell into an impressive three piece band with some really nice ear pleasing harmonies and finally settled with the unexpectedly alternative guitar stylings of a young man dressed all in black. And then of course, there was Suzanne Vega, need I say more?

1 02 2011
Elly

Shannon, ‘the young man in black’ was not an Idol contestant but a local professional musician who you can see performing around town when he’s not on tour with his band.

1 02 2011
Mo

Great review, it was a treat to see Vega perform live.

The local talent was incredible, the reviewer is simply commenting on the contrast between “raw performances” and the stage presence of a decades-long performance veteran. Can anyone honestly deny there is a difference between the two?

Overall it was a show well worth seeing, and I’m sure everyone in the audience appreciated Vega performing a few extra songs at the end of the night!

1 02 2011
NickyN

Great Review. I was not able to attend but the description of the night painted a wonderful picture. It is great to see that Monday Magazine is supporting up-and-coming photojournalists in Victoria.

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