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November 21, 2022
Hooking you up with a soft yet soulful vocal, memorable choruses, and insightful lyrics that often sound autobiographical, Suzanne Vega is up there with a select roster of rockers who can take the mundane, small moments that happen over the course of music. a day and invest them with drama, meaning, double meanings and a sense of pain and joy in life.
Someone like Laura Nyro or Lou Reed comes to mind.
In An evening of New York songs and stories (2020), a 24-track live album recorded at Café Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Vega cements a legacy. Released on her own label, Amanuensis Productions, the album features familiar numbers like “Marlene on the Wall,” “Tom’s Diner” and “Freeze Tag,” and she strings, conversationally, from one to the next. another, speaking of her Experiences in New York.
“The first time I saw Lou Reed I was 19,” she told the audience during the live taping. “I had just left my parents’ apartment. I had rented myself a small room near Barnard College, where I went to school. I had bought myself a bright red lipstick at the drugstore and some bright red nail polish, and I felt very liberated and free and very rock ‘n’ roll.
“So this guy took me on a date, and Lou Reed was playing at Columbia University. And I vaguely remembered him – the song I’m about to sing – from the radio But this show really changed things for me in terms of songwriting, songs and rock ‘n’ roll I mean this show really showed me what rock ‘n’ roll was. .
Then she launches into a folksy rendition of Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.”
When it comes to telling stories, Vega is a natural. She appears live at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 4 in the St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art. The event, advertised as An intimate evening of songs and storiesis a stop on Vega’s post-COVID tour in support of the album.
“We really focus more on mainstream hits that audiences love,” Vega said. Pastime. “We’ll do some songs from New York Songs and Storieswhich tend to be staples anyway.
For An evening of New York songs and storiesVega was joined by guitarist Gerry Leonard, bassist Jeff Allen and keyboardist Jamie Edwards.
“With its outstanding performance, An evening of New York songs and stories also serves as a great introduction to Vega, an artist who always deserves to be on your radar no matter your hometown,” wrote Pablo Gorondi in his 2020 review in The Associated Press .
But, revisiting the hits, listeners hear the mature, relaxed and enjoyable stage presence, honed by years of touring, that makes the unassuming Vega an imposing performer.
Born in Santa Monica, Calif., the 63-year-old singer-songwriter grew up in New York City from the age of two. She grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side, rising to prominence in the mid-1980s with a number of hits, including “Left of Center” and the heartbreaking “Luka,” a song about a young boy who suffers physical abuse at home.
I walked through the door again
Well if you ask, that’s what I’ll say
And it’s none of your business anyway
“Luka” won Best Female Video at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards, two years before her album Open hand days (1990), won a Grammy for best album ensemble.
She was nominated for several Billboard Music Awards and Grammy Awards and won the British NME Award for Best Female Vocalist in 1987.
A Lilith Fair regular, Vega shared the stage with prominent female performers of the 1980s and 1990s, including Tracy Chapman and Lisa Loeb. But Vega’s own star rose long before. And it goes up quickly, with the release of his first album, Suzanne Vega (A&M Records, 1985). In the year, she will collaborate with the composer Philip Glass and will record alongside David Byrne, Laurie Anderson and Paul Simon for the album of Glass. Liquid Days Songs (SCS, 1986).
Her output as a musician is well known internationally; her acting career, less. But this is another area where Vega, who is at home in intimate audience environments and conversational performances, is a natural.
“When I was in high school, I majored in modern dance and worked with various choreographers,” says Vega, who recently completed a film version of her 2011 solo play.Carson McCullers talks about love, called lover, beloved (2022). “And then when I went to college, I minored in acting.”
The live theatrical version of McCullers’ play, which ran off-Broadway at New York’s Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, was, at the time, the culmination of Vega’s near-permanent fascination with an author long associated with the genre. of Southern Gothic fiction. She was known for novels The heart is a lonely hunter (1940) and The wedding member (1946).
“I became interested in Carson McCullers when I was in college,” she says. “The first draft of this piece was called nothing human. I played it at school for a very small audience. When we did Carson McCullers talks about love at the Rattlestick, it was my first time performing off-Broadway.
Vega was drawn to McCullers’ writing before she knew anything about the author.
“The first time I read anything by Carson McCullers was a short story called ‘Sucker,’ Vega says. “It’s written from the perspective of a teenager and his relationship with, I thinks it’s a distant cousin, who comes to stay with them. The distant cousin has a crush on the narrator. It’s an unrequited love story, basically. But I loved the tone of it , which was so real and so modern. I thought it was written by a young man in the 70s, and it turned out to be written by a Southern woman in the 50s.
“I liked the tone, the slang, the way she expressed the feelings between these two boys, the intimacy, the intensity and the violence of it. I thought, ‘I like this guy, Carson McCullers.’ »
It was McCullers’ photo on the cover of a published biography that set Vega straight. But it also elicited an empathetic response. Here is another spirit.
“There’s this lanky woman, and her hair is kind of like I cut my hair, I wear a jacket, and I like to wear jackets. I kind of fell in love with her during my college days. and I wanted to bring him to life, to go on stage and talk about his feelings, his life and his work.
Vega auditioned for several film roles, “none of which I felt were the right fit, nor were the directors,” she says. “So that’s how my acting career went.”
Vega once auditioned for the 1992 film Whoopi Goldberg sister actand it didn’t go very well.
“I did a monologue from Carson McCullers material, and they weren’t happy. They were like, ‘This is Disney. Do you think you could lighten it up a bit? I wasn’t really prepared to do that, so of course the part went to someone else who vaguely looked like me at the time.
lover, beloved, which is his first feature film credit, was written solely by Vega. In the film, as McCullers, she appears in a number of intimate domestic settings, telling stories of her life experiences. And in this performance Vega disappears and McCullers, for a brief moment, is brought back to life.
That is to say until she enters into song. Then the two, Vega and McCullers, converge.
“Vega, sporting McCullers’ signature pixie haircut and affecting a particular cadence, details the writer’s chronic illness, alcoholism, adulterous marriage and unrequited loves on a handful of sparsely decorated sets,” said writes Josh Kopecki in his March 2022 review in the Austin Chronicle. “Directed with understated charm by Austin filmmaker Michael Tully (Don’t leave the house, Ping Pong Summer), lover, beloved is a serious love letter to a literary eccentric particularly gifted in illuminating the most desolate regions of this restless four-chamber organ.
The film, which Vega is currently seeking distribution for, premiered in early spring at South by Southwest, the Austin, Texas-based interactive media and music festival. An album version, Lover, Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers, was released on Amanuensis in 2016.
Each version, from nothing human at lover, belovedis an evolution, and no two versions are identical.
“Carson McCullers talks about love had his run at the Rattlestick,” Vega says. “I was not happy, at the end, with this game. It was a little more experimental than I had wanted. I wanted something with more of a classic bow. So I rewrote it, and it became the final version, which is lover, beloved.”
Vega says she’s reached her limit on projects around McCullers but would like to see more.
“I have a small dream. One of these days, if it gets interesting, I’d love to see a version of Carson McCullers starring with a transgender actor playing young Carson and a person in a wheelchair playing her in part two of the show. The original second act was performed in a wheelchair. I had wheelchair choreography that I was following. If this could happen in my lifetime, I would be really happy.