Suzanne Vega Shepherd's Bush Empire, London
Thursday 13 February 1997
Vega performs them solo, dismissing her band and, as she speaks of herself as "a marble or an eye", her curiously inexpressive voice finds the place to which it is best suited. This intelligent chilly disaffection was her cachet when she first launched her sound on the stone-dead folk scene of 1980s New York, and was subsequently clutched to the world's bosom with the likes of "Marlene on the Wall" and "Left of Centre". There was a protracted fallow period until, in 1993, she began working with ubiquitous producer Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Crowded House); they subsequently married. And things altered radically.
Post-marriage, post-baby (possibly post-therapy - "I had to let go of the censoring voice in my mind"), Vega's emotions blossomed and the new LP, Nine Objects of Desire, has her warm, moody and revelling in fulfilled desires. On record, it works, full of Latin beats and understated electric guitar, a cross between Steely Dan and revved-up Young Marble Giants.
Live, somehow it didn't. Played against her delicate earlier stuff, the newer work tired with lengthy, unreconstructed rock-outs from her back- up boys, Vega almost drowned in the melee. It's hard to be a rock babe when you play an acoustic, but that, it seems, is what Suzanne really wants. The songs are certainly clever, and some are sexy, witty and knowing, like the opener "Stockings", full of exotic snake-charmer pipes, or "Caramel", a barefoot samba sung with Astrid Gilberto-like breathiness. And some have hooks to die for: the single, "No Cheap Thrill", written for her husband, is groovy and propulsive, full of slick, bassy guitar.
Otherwise, the set refused to work out. Tiny and dapper in flat, buckled shoes, a schoolgirlish coat and a bob with rolled bangs (very Judy Garland in Meet Me in St Louis), Vega was bounced between tribal drums, crazed bass, electric clarinet and full-throated Hammond riffs hammered by her band. Occasionally - on "Boy in the Belfry" - the blend of jangly guitars seemed to lift her voice; the rest of the time, the laboured accompaniment squashed it. Brave as she is to attempt this departure, the moments to cherish were the cleaner ones of refracted prisms: "I am thrown against the sky / I am raining down in pieces / I am scattering like light, scattering like light..."
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Paris charity auction staged to save the ancient city of Tyre
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
A very timely Great Train Robbery and a frantic 24 Hours in A&E among the highlights
Geoffrey Macnab: The Wolf of Wall Street's account of white-collar excess is A Rake’s Progress on steroids
arts + entsThe 'Friends' actor on his new role as campaigner on addiction issues
Arts & Ents blogs
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, film review
Brian Griffin returns: Cartoon dog back from the dead in Family Guy Christmas episode
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
The Wolf of Wall Street, film review: 'A lurid, profanity bespattered movie'
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 4 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- 5 Status: Wet - Woman walks off a pier while checking Facebook on her phone
- < Previous
- Next >