Luka. Tom’s Diner. Marlene on the Wall. People usually associate folk rock artiste Suzanne Vega with some name or another, thanks to her global hits from the ’80s – such as the above-mentioned – which have stood the test of time. Another name association with Suzanne for me though has always been Susan. As in Desperately Seeking Susan. Suzanne was asked to audition for the titular character in the 1985 movie, which of course famously went to Madonna. Well, Suzanne is definitely no Susan. But then again, there’s only one Suzanne Vega.
I had missed her earlier concert in Singapore a few years back, so when my friend Wendy, a huge SV fan, told me that the Solitude Standing songwriter will be back with a show to promote her new album – the magnificently titled Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles (TFTROTQOP), I wanted to catch her this time especially after hearing the remarkably good new material.
She was to perform at the rather small but intimate Esplanade Recital Studio which holds about 250 seats. So small that on the day of the concert (1 April), SISTIC trumpeted that they are pleased to “release 6 more seats” which is roughly equivalent to one back row in the studio. Thanks to Wendy booking tickets way in advance, we had front row seats which meant Suzanne was performing, like, just a mere 10 feet from us – with no bouncers, barriers or fanatic fans in sight. It’s definitely a different setting from the stadium acts the likes of Madonna and Green Day that I’m used to! When the classy and still pretty songstress walked into the “centrestage” area to thunderous applause, with just her producer-guitarist Gerry Leonard in tow, I have to say it’s such a thrill to be able to watch a talent of her calibre performing live so up close and personal!
Not only is Ms Vega one talented lady, she’s one funny gal too. Her light-hearted banter often have the audience in stitches and laughing out loud. Such as when she was introducing a new track, the foot-tapping mystical track, ‘Fool’s Complaint’. By the time she explained what the song is about, she realised on hindsight that the explanation was probably longer than the song!
Though it was a tour to promote TFTROTQOP, her playlist was peppered with old favourites such as ‘Marlene on the Wall’, ‘Left of Centre’, ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Luka’. But it’s her new tracks that showed that the New York City native has yet to lose her touch in writing infectious tunes with either catchy or thought-provoking lyrics. First single, ‘Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain’, for one is a corker of a tune not unlike an Irish jig with the title phrase guaranteed to be a earworm. Others such as ‘I Never Wear White’ is the anthem for people like me who love to wear black, while ‘Crack in the Wall’ is a breezy, percussion-rich ode to a beautiful world of nature discovered through, er, a crack in the wall (“with a door sprang around it”). Armed with just a folk guitar – and Leonard on electric – top hat and super shiny gold shoes (above), Suzanne effortlessly delivered 15+ songs in a 90-min set that also includes ‘Tom’s Diner’ and a 3-song encore.
After the show, the singer made time to sign autographs and posed for photos with audience members who were more than happy to stay behind. As she signed my copy of her new album, I complimented her on a great show (but was a tad too starstruck to tell her that I love black too and never wear white either…) Thereafter, she had a private backstage session with a handful of her ardent fans known as Towies (named after the SV fan forum Undertow, which in turn is named after one of her earlier songs, ‘Undertow’), some of whom would travel all over the world to watch their music idol live. Thanks to Wendy, I was made an “adopted” Towie that night and got to step into the “golden circle” and had a proper picture with Suzanne taken! (*Double Victory Sign*).
For those who have yet to hear Suzanne Vega’s new album, Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, I highly recommend you do. The only thing that was probably lacking from the concert was to hear Suzanne perform the brilliant 1992 electronic hit, ‘Blood Makes Noise’. But then again, it will be tough performing that with just one folk and one electric guitar…
You can check out her new album here:
Also available from itunes
Photos Credit: (c) Marguerita Tan 2014