Sunday, 24 June 2012

LIVE: Suzanne Vega @ The Sage, Gateshead

*Originally published for The Journal newspaper (21/6/12)

Suzanne Vega is quite the veteran performer, with 27 years' experience on and off the road.

But for all her wisdom, she took to the stage of Hall One with the playfulness of youth, top hat at a jaunty angle for 'Marlene On The Wall' and oak-smoked vocals resonating with warmth.

The first half hour of the set was littered with early hits, including delicate guitars and heavy metaphors in 'Small Blue Thing.'  The audience seemed gently lulled by these folky numbers, which lent themselves to Vega's conversational singing style.

But Vega's talents do not stop there. Slotting a fake cigarette between her fingers and losing her guitar, she suddenly transformed herself into Carson McCullers, the ambitious protagonist of her musical, Carson McCullers Talks About Love. She confidently presented a trio of Broadway-like tunes, but they seemed a little humdrum and out of place.

'Blood Makes Noise' is a strange number live. Vega danced trance-like, while her pal on guitar looped effects frantically for an industrial-rock sound. By experimental standards, the song was brave and sounded fresh 20 years on, but it jarred noticeably against her earlier acoustic work.

After the catchy chorus and rhythms of 'Tom's Diner', Vega once again brandished her mighty acoustic. 'Some Journey' and 'Luka' really charmed the audience at the set's close with full-bodied guitars and glorious, chiming vocals.

Clearly, it is her early work that still pleases audiences most.

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