Suzanne Vega at the Anvil

I’m a pretty lazy fan these days. If a band isn’t coming to Reading then I’m probably not going to  catch their current tour. I may, if I’m feeling inspired, travel to Bracknell or even Maidenhead for a comedy gig.

So when I saw the dates for Suzanne Vega, I thought “Basingstoke? Really? That’s miles away.” (Just 20, in fact). I dithered for a few weeks until I decided that if I didn’t go then I’d be disappointed with myself, having been wanting to see her live for ages. As the gig was on Father’s Day, I decided to treat my family to tickets (yes, I know that’s the wrong way round).

I hadn’t seen Suzanne live for a long time – Glastonbury Acoustic tent in 1999 and Richmond Theatre the following year. It’s not that she hasn’t toured the UK or I’ve not been interested; more that I hadn’t been paying enough attention to the dates of the tours that seemed to happen every year.

The Anvil is a very nice venue, right by the railway station and cheap parking for easy access. Not too large a venue – a 1,400-seater so 200 more than the Hexagon which surprised me.

Ben Montague provided support for Suzanne and did a good job, very strongly in the Ed Sheeran mould, and we picked up his CD (“Back Into Paradise”) afterwards. Ben had signed a pile in advance  – unfortunately he’d signed the case and not the insert. {{shakes head}}.

Suzanne came on after the interval with Gerry Leonard acting as several members of a band through the impressive use of guitar looping. From his website:

Leonard produced and helped co-write the new album for Suzanne Vega. “Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles” came out in Feb 2014…

Leonard is currently touring with Suzanne Vega promoting the new record. The current show is a duo show featuring the sublime vocals of Ms Vega and some more “Spooky Ghost” style arrangements of her songs, that are using Leonard’s unique style of looping and ambiences. Highlights include stripped down versions of “Blood makes Noise”, “Tom’s Diner” and “Jacob and the Angel” from the new record.

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The set list focussed on both the latest album (“Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles”) and the first (which was celebrating it’s 30th year).

  1. Fat Man & Dancing Girl (99.9 F°, 1992)
  2. Marlene on the Wall (SV, 1985)
  3. Caramel (NOD, 1996)
  4. Fool’s Complaint (TRQP 2014)
  5. Crack in the Wall (TRQP 2014)
  6. Jacob and the Angel (TRQP 2014)
  7. Small Blue Thing (SV, 1985)
  8. Gypsy (SS, 1987)
  9. The Queen and the Soldier (SV, 1985)
  10. Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain (TRQP 2014)
  11. Freeze Tag (SV, 1985)
  12. Left of Center (OST, 1986)
  13. I Never Wear White (TRQP 2014)
  14. Some Journey (SV, 1985)
  15. Luka (SS, 1987)
  16. Tom’s Diner (SS, 1987)

Encore:

  1. Blood Makes Noise (99.9 F°, 1992)
  2. In Liverpool (99.9 F°, 1992)
  3. Rosemary (1999)

[SV – Eponymously titled first studio album]
[SS – Solitude Standing; second studio album]
[99.9 F° – fourth studio album]
[NOD – Nine Objects of Desire; fifth studio album]
[TRQP – Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles]

Ignoring the new tracks, this could have been the selection I saw her perform at Glastonbury! There have been a couple of studio albums after Nine Objects of Desire (“Songs in Red and Grey” in 2001 and “Beauty and Crime” in 2007) but neither appear to have any fan favourites on them. Suzanne has re-recorded her back-catalogue onto 4 “Close-Up” albums (2010-2012) so no source of new hits there. I hope there are some decent tracks on “Queen of Tentacles Pentacles” that resonate strongly with the Undertow to prevent her looking like a tribute band for her younger 20th century self.

The songs tonight were all lovely, even if she didn’t sing some of the others I enjoy (I must write up a ‘best of’ list after listening to the albums again); “The Queen and the Soldier”  is one I particularly like singing along to (quietly, of course).

The stories in between the songs were sweet, such as finding out that “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain” isn’t a traditional Irish proverb, or hearing about her summer romance with the boy from Liverpool.

Suzanne stayed behind afterwards to sign souvenirs and merchandise so I took the opportunity to buy a signed album and take a photo. The man in front of me had the first two vinyl LPs for signing. In fact, the long queue seemed to be composed entirely of middle-aged men. Most strange.

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Pentacles

Writing this up has reminded me of other things I haven’t got round to doing, such as reading “The Passionate Eye” – I’ve only had the book on the shelf for 15 years. Should have taken it along to get signed.

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And, finally, thanks to Tony Waye for buying me the cassette of Suzanne’s first album for my birthday way back in Swansea all those years ago.

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