A night to remember

[The management begs me to advise you that this drivel was originally part of a longer post I wrote on October 6, 2007, after I had the overwhelming pleasure of hearing Susanne Vega performing live at the Barrymore Theater.]

Richard Julian was the opening act for the Suzanne Vega concert. I’ve never heard of him, and we weren’t sure what to expect. He played maybe a dozen songs accompanying himself on guitar and, as it turned out, was a whole lot of fun. When we saw Leo Kottke play guitar I thought it was funny that he barely moved. Julian, by contrast, couldn’t hold still. When he wasn’t singing he be-bopped across the stage, and when he was singing he bobbed and weaved around the microphone like a hummingbird at a blossom. His voice was delightfully mellow, and he could make his guitar sound as though it were playing two different musical phrases at once. The audience gave him an enthusiastic and well-earned round of applause as he finished up the final song of his set, God, the Third.

After a short intermission Suzanne Vega took the stage, posed alone in front of the microphone and sang Tom’s Diner a capella, snapping her fingers, as the rest of her band strolled out one by one to their places. It was a surreal experience, I have to tell you, after hearing her only in recordings, to have this blue jeaned woman with a fedora slouched down over her eyes standing before me singing in Vega’s unmistakable voice.

Suzanne Vega’s got a voice as cool and soothing as a Tom Collins on a dog day in August. And she writes lyrics that are poetry. These two aspects are without question trademarks of her music, so I don’t get why the sound guy buried her voice by cranking up the volume on the band’s instruments until I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Seems counter-productive to me.

The finest moment of the concert had to be when the band members faded from the stage early in the set, leaving Vega alone to sing Gypsy, accompanying herself on a six-string guitar so sweetly it became a moment that should never have ended. I wish she’d done that for at least one more song, old or new, I wouldn’t have cared. (Actually, I could have died if she’d played Ironbound, a song that had been going through my head all day.) Truly, I loved every song she sang that night, except for the DNA remix of Tom’s Diner. I’ve never gotten used to that.

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