Meltdown Festival: Suzanne Vega at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Starsailor’s James Walsh tonight supports renowned New York singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega.
Leading into the set with the rendition of his band’s track Good Souls from 2001’s Love is Here, the artist’s vocal strength is eminent. Playing tracks from his solo album Turning Point, with romantic elegiac ballad Empire – the highlight of the short set – and If I Had the Words, his vocals are earnest and brimming with emotion, not requiring a full band. The Britpop singer’s humbleness is sweet when he thanks curator Robert Smith and headliner Suzanne Vega. Though an established musician himself, Walsh relays how he still has to pinch himself that someone as talented as her requested him to perform.
Folk-rock singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega’s career spans an impressive 30 years. She appears on stage while lead guitarist Gerry Leonard strums the intro to opener Fat Man and Dancing Girl (99.9F), and it is extraordinary to hear how unchanged her vocals are; this is followed by Marlene on the Wall, from her 1985 debut, which sounds exactly as it did all those decades ago. The musician recalls she always wanted to be invited to Meltdown Festival, thanking Robert Smith who finally “came through”. Small Blue Thing produces goosebumps, a mesmerising story unfolding with Vega’s flawless vocals and Leonard’s delicate strumming, a moving highlight. Another classic, Solitude Standing, exhibits the singer’s ability to carry the performance with just her voice and two guitars. Vega jokes: “Gerry’s face-melting skills were on display in this song, so I hope you’re ready to have your faces melted at Meltdown Festival”. Blood Makes Noise introduces a powerful and edgy element to the show, the stage lit scarlet red. The undeniable melodic beauty of Left of Center is transporting, Leonard’s swift guitar plucking glimmering in the echoing hall, while other equally alluring highlights include I Never Wear White, Luka, and Tom’s Diner.
Literary tribute to writer Carson McCullers – and a song the artist “really loves to sing” – Carson’s Last Supper poignantly lifts with its story-like features, demonstrating the singer’s gift for writing poetic verse. Closing with Rosemary, instead of Caramel – kindly accepting fans’ requests – Vega enthrals until the very last.
A natural on stage, the New Yorker performs vintage highlights and rarely played material, with recollections of humorous anecdotes. Vega’s track choice is varying, her musical partnership with Leonard trance-like; this was a show filled with 80s nostalgia, perfectly befitting Meltdown Festival.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Suzanne Vega’s website here.
Watch the video for Luka here: