The live music started with the support from acoustic solo act Ben Montague, who played a set mixing up the tempo on guitar and keyboard. His talent as a singer song writer shone through as he played Run Away from his latest album Back Into Paradise released this week so the songs had a freshness about them. He did not just sell the new album we heard from his back catalogue including Amelia from Truth as he showed his skills and developed his sound where the lyrics build around the melody. Ending the opening set leaving the audience wanting more with Haunted and you can understand why Ken Bruce, Radio 2 played the song a strong and warm opening act who was as excited as the audience to be in the presence of Suzanne Vega.
The audience fell into a hush as Suzanne Vega picked up the microphone and opened an evening of delightful contemporary folk music where the lyrics captured the attention of everyone as the audience sat it delight. The hall was nicely full for the New Yorker who thirty years ago was seen as the saviour of the singer/songwriter. Her clear voice carried high into the auditorium with some wonderful subtle guitar licks from Gary Leonard with is stupendous timing adding that layer of texture. The sound the pair created was captivating, it was the black-clad Suzanne who was the Queen of the stage that held everyone’s attention and though there was no dancing in the aisle or stamping of feet everyone was there to sit back and let the folk melodies cascade and reach deep into our musical souls and memories.
The array of songs was a walk through her extensive back catalogue with the only prop on stage he top-hat that was used for a few songs and her own accompaniment on her stylish acoustic guitar playing. As ever it was her vocal massaging of the lyrics that hit home with love songs, sad songs and reflections of life’s experiences it’s ups and downs. In between the songs the raconteur skills came to the fore with little stories as she shared the muse for the songs.
The percussive electric guitar work gave a sharp contrast to the misty shaped revelry Suzanne was creating giving Crack in The Wall texture and tension. There was an ethereal feel of Jacob and the Angel, it has a feel of a travelling song with no imagined end and then we find ourselves at the destination for good or bad. The tarot appeared in the form of Queen of Pentacles and again was about spirituality, which along with illicit sex beatings and abuse form the cornerstone of the lyrics that are a stripped-back story telling that keeps every feeling and experience to the fore.
We heard about relationships of youth with a young man from Liverpool, how they bonded over a love of Leonard Cohen back in the mid seventies when he wasn’t so popular and Tom’s Diner with its capella quality was dramatic with the accompaniment of the staccato hand clapping of Suzanne. The tones ebbed and flowed at times with a Middle Eastern feel of rolling deserts and desolate landscapes as the hands were clapped and the drone of the vocals picking up the wail of the guitar. Every song was full of drama often a dense and dark sound she is a true troubadour, the singer of poetry that is relevant to lives experienced. Another track from Queen of Pentacles album was Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain; with its jaunty neat ‘you will do well to remember what happened to Pandora when she opened the box’, actions have a consequence so beware!
This was an intense delivery and there was humour as Suzanne asked what we would like to hear as the evening was drawing to a close we had Never Wear White and she certainly was true to the lyrics, no show would be complete without Luka full of sadness and dignity a very popular choice despite its tale of child abuse. A couple more songs, rousing applause she left the stage and the lights went up and evening of beautiful mystical, and thought provoking music.