Suzanne Vega and her full band take their places on The Tivoli stage on this chilly Brisbane Tuesday night. I’m used to supporting acts at shows, but there’s no time for that tonight as Vega and her crew have something truly special lined up for us – just like every show on this Australian stretch of her worldwide Anniversary Tour, they are performing 2 entire albums worth of her timeless songs. Solitude Standing and 99.F, in celebration of their 30th and 25th anniversaries respectively. With Gerry Leonard on guitar (also known for his work with David Bowie), Mike Visceglia on bass (Vega’s original bass player on the Solitude Standing album) and Yuval Lion on drums – I was told to leave my fan-girl pants at home, but man, I’m excited!
I knew what she was going to start with – Tom’s Diner, a cappella. Luckily, the audience tones down their excitement just a little too, and Vega is given that silence that is really needed for that unmistakable voice to fill the old Tivoli theatre. The way she projects her voice with restraint, with light and shade, the hushed tones, the quirky lyrics that some of us almost instinctively know by heart… Especially for the next song – Luka – truly captivating! I’m feeling honoured, seeing this played live by Vega herself, right before my eyes.
It must be said, the sound guys have hit the nail on the head from the get-go with this show and should be commended – it is absolutely remarkable how crystal clear it is – you can close your eyes and swear you’re listening to the record on surround sound speakers – this sound quality makes a massive difference to my experience and I’m 100% sure that the entire audience would agree. What else is remarkable is how much Vega’s voice has not changed one bit since Solitude Standing’s 1987 release.
After In The Eye, Vega introduces her next song as being about, in a way, wanting to save somebody – wanting to teach them how to see in the dark. Once the eerily beautiful Night Vision comes to a close, someone cheeky from the audience calls out “Side B!” Vega responds, “And now we’ve come to where, depending on your age, you may have had to turn the record over… or the cassette.” Confessing too, that there are plenty of albums that she’s never heard the Side B of.
I can’t stop watching her effortless fingerpicking whenever she plays that acoustic guitar – what a talent! Vega speaks of some of her influences; Unsurprisingly, Leonard Cohen… Bob Dylan… but for this next song, Wooden Horse (Casper Hauser’s Song) she was influenced byPeter Gabriel. THIS is one of the many reasons why I love getting out and seeing live music. I have heard this song so many times in my life, but with Vega’s witty banter, anecdotes and memories shared between songs, I’m now being introduced to it again like it’s brand new. I can suddenly hear the Gabriel-esk tribal-like, punchy drums and ambient guitar tones.
After a short intermission, we hear 99.9. Vega tells us how in between the making of these two quintessential albums, she met her biological father for the first time. Imparting these little pieces of knowledge along the way are really helping set the scene for me with each song.
It is obvious that Vega’s music and songwriting has touched so many – the audience has one of the most varied demographics I’ve ever seen at a show – the majority watch on, eyes glued, ears pricked – but I do catch some free-spirits at the back, swaying whimsically, hands weaving through the air, dancing along to even the most sullen of her tunes. Before long, Vega once again dons the iconic top hat and closes out the night with the full-band version of Tom’s Diner, and it’s like the crowd’s cue to dance and make the most of the few minutes we have left! This rendition of Suzanne Vega’s most popular track tops off the night perfectly and the crowd really shows their appreciation for the marathon performance.
If I had to pick just one word – Magical. This evening with Suzanne Vega and her band was just magical.
Review Contributed by Elizabeth Sharpe