Suzanne Vega Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

POP

I'd like to say I've never been able to stand Suzanne Vega, but the truth is, I had 1985's "Small Blue Thing" and its perfectly formed B-side, "The Queen and the Soldier", and played them endlessly. Exquisite and simply constructed, both are gems articulating a fight against inner coldness, the strangling tension of wanting to feel, but being too scared to do it. On Tuesday night, these songs stood out for their sharp, bright beauty.

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..."

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam