Sunday, December 02, 2007

Suzanne Vega Returns to New York

Although best known to most people for her 1987 hit song “Luka,” singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega has had a long and varied career for more than 20 years. Her concert at Manhattan Center on Thursday was a great chance to see this native New Yorker performing in her hometown, playing songs from her very New York centric new album, Beauty and Crime.

In some of the new songs Vega harkens back to an earlier era in New York, and this look is also captured on the photography for the new album, and in her appearance onstage. For the entire show Vega wore a trenchcoat that would have been at home in a 1940s filim noir, with one side pulled down seductively to reveal a bare shoulder. And when playing several songs from Beauty and Crime she donned the type of old-fashioned hat you'd expect a hardened noir detective to wear.

The songs she played from Beauty and Crime talked about New York City of the past—New York is a Woman (“But not always a lady,” she noted), Edith Wharton's Figurines, Frank and Ava (about the stormy romance between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner). But one poignant number, Angel's Doorway, tells the story of an NYPD cop named Angel who worked at Ground Zero.

While Vega's early work had acoustic roots, calling her a folk singer vastly oversimplifies the many styles she's worked in over the years. She showed this range during the concert, from the remix dance-pop version of her a capella hit Tom's Diner to the clanging industrial sound of Blood Makes Noise to the jazzy bossa nova feel of Caramel.

The Manhattan Center show was a fitting example of the many styles and faces of Suzanne Vega.

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