Unsophisticated Art Review: Suzanne Vega

For Valentine’s Day, Bonnie surprised me with tickets to a Suzanne Vega concert in Carrboro, which was especially nice since I’m a big fan but Bonnie has only known suffering due to my years of repeatedly humming Tom’s Diner.

In any case, we both thought the performance was outstanding. The word that keeps resonating with me is “authentic.” The important things were excellent: the lyrics, the singing, the stories, the music. The other things were appropriately less polished: a hat that fell off, a new song sung with the help of a lyric sheet, missed stage lighting. The small venue helped (300 – 400 people). Her only accompaniment was veteran musician Gerry Leonard, who handled a wide variety of music and even tried to play along when Suzanne Vega sang a verse of her thirty year old country music song (after an audience member request).

I’m sure it’s blasphemous to say so, but one thing I often dislike about live performances is that the music is not as finely mixed as in a studio recording, especially the vocals often getting overwhelmed by the instruments. Except for some bass than sounded clipped at times, the live performance was much better in this case, though perhaps more due of artistic refinement over time. The vocal inflections carried more feeling, and in Small Blue Thing the vocals somehow came out sounding round “like a marble or an eye.”