Suzanne Vega, gig review: 'Vega is back and vital again'

Barbican, London

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The Independent Culture

“I was brought up a Buddhist in New York City,” shares Suzanne Vega before “Jacob and the Angel”, one of the many mystical numbers unveiled to a subdued but appreciative crowd.

The divine, knights, demons and tapestries are much in evidence here, and on “Crack in the Wall” Vega talks about “a glimpse into another realm”. Thankfully, the 54-year-old's considerable charm, plus her exquisite alto voice and some gorgeous oldies pull us through the mumbo jumbo.

“My colour is black, black, black, ” the folk-pop pioneer maintains on “I Never Wear White”, a positively goth-like track from her latest album, Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, performed almost in its entirety. The record, her first in seven years, is musically robust (helped hugely by the presence of the nimble guitarist Gerry Leonard) and adventurous, particularly a sample of 50 Cent's “Candy Shop” on the perky “Don't Uncork What You Can't Contain”.

However, it's the songs from 1985's Suzanne Vega and 1987's Solitude Standing that still stir, most notably “Marlene on the Wall”, “Tom's Diner”, “Gypsy” and, best of all, the outsider anthem “Left of Center”. The sultry “Caramel” is another highlight and a cheeky “Walk on the Wild Side”.

Vega is back and she feels vital again...