Date(s) - Oct 22nd 2020
Doors and Bar Food: 6:30 p.m. | Show: 7:30 p.m.
Suzanne Vega says of her latest offering, An Evening of New York Songs and Stories, to be released May 1 (Amanuensis/Cooking Vinyl), “I recorded these songs at the Café Carlyle in New York City, a small exclusive club that has hosted legends from Eartha Kitt to Judy Collins, and is also known to be the place where Jackie Kennedy met Audrey Hepburn. I love it for its bohemian old-world glamour! I included songs that were inspired by New York City or for which New York provided the backdrop, and also one by my late, great friend, Lou Reed, – “Walk on the Wild Side” – a song I rarely heard him sing himself.”
On An Evening of New York Songs and Stories, Vega is backed by longtime guitarist, Gerry Leonard, bassist Jeff Allen and keyboardist Jamie Edwards. Recorded in early 2019, the album includes both familiar songs like “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner” and deep cuts from her catalog like “Frank and Ava” and “Ludlow Street”. The mix of repertoire also features “New York Is My Destination” from Lover, Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers, Vega’s 2016 album from her one woman play about the Southern gothic novelist Carson McCullers.
An Evening of New York Songs and Stories was produced by Gerry Leonard, mixed by Grammy Award winning engineer Kevin Killen and mastered by Grammy Award winner, Bob Ludwig.
“Widely regarded as one of the foremost songwriters of her generation”, Suzanne Vega emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what has been called contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the release of her self-titled, critically acclaimed 1985 debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world’s best-known venues. In performances devoid of outward drama that nevertheless convey deep emotion, Vega sings in a distinctive, clear vibrato-less voice that has been described as “a cool, dry sandpaper- brushed near-whisper” and as “plaintive but disarmingly powerful.”
Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who “observes the world with a clinically poetic eye,” Suzanne’s songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, Suzanne Vega’s work is immediately recognizable, as utterly distinct and thoughtful as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 30 years ago.
Suzanne was born in Santa Monica, CA, but grew up in Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side of New York City. She was influenced by her mother, a computer systems analyst and her stepfather, the Puerto Rican writer Egardo Vega Yunque. There was a heady mix of multicultural music playing at home: Motown, bossa nova, jazz and folk. At age 11 she picked up a guitar and as a teenager she started to write songs.
Suzanne studied dance at the High School for the Performing Arts and later attended Barnard College where she majored in English Literature and minored in theater. In 1979 after Suzanne attended a concert by Lou Reed, she began to find her true artistic voice and distinctive vision for contemporary folk. Receptionist by day, Suzanne was hanging out at the Greenwich Village Songwriter’s Exchange by night. Soon she was playing iconic venues like The Bottom Line and Folk City. The word was out and audiences were catching on.
At first, record companies saw little prospect of commercial success. Suzanne’s demo tape was rejected by every major record company—and twice by the very label that eventually signed her. Her self-titled debut album (A&M) was finally released in 1985, co-produced by Steve Addabbo and Lenny Kaye, guitarist for Patti Smith. 1,000,000 records later, it was clear that Suzanne’s voice was resonating around the world. “Marlene on the Wall” was a surprise hit in the U.K and Rolling Stone eventually included the record in their “100 Greatest Recordings of the 1980’s.”
1987’s follow up, Solitude Standing, again co-produced by Addabbo and Kaye, elevated her to star status. The album hit #2 in the UK and #11 in the States was nominated for three Grammys including Record of the Year and went platinum in the US, selling three million copies worldwide. “Luka” is a song that has entered the cultural vernacular; certainly the only hit song ever written from the perspective of an abused boy. Vega continues to support children’s and human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Casa Alianza and Covenant House.
The opening song on Solitude Standing was a strange little a cappella piece, “Tom’s Diner” about a non-descript restaurant near Columbia University. Without Suzanne’s permission, it was remixed by U.K. electronic dance duo “DNA” and bootlegged as “Oh Susanne.” Suddenly her voice on this obscure tune was showing up in the most unlikely setting of all: the club. Suzanne permitted an official release of the remix of “Tom’s Diner” under its original title that reached #5 on the Billboard pop chart and went gold. In 1991, she brought the remix and other unsolicited versions of the song together in a compilation called Tom’s Album. Vega also holds the distinction of being christened “Mother of the MP3” by the technology’s creator, who used her recording of “Tom’s Diner” to refine its compression algorithm.
Suzanne co-produced the follow-up album with Anton Sanko, 1990’s Days Of Open Hand. The album featured a string arrangement by minimalist composer Philip Glass. Years earlier she had penned lyrics for his song cycle “Songs From Liquid Days.” Continuing to battle preconceptions, she teamed with producer Mitchell Froom for 1992’s 99.9F. The album’s sound instigated descriptions such as “industrial folk” and “techno folk.” Certified gold, 99.9F won a New York Music Award as Best Rock Album. Vega was also the first of an elite group of women, joined recently by Billie Eilish, to land three consecutive singles in Billboard’s Alternative Top 10, beginning with “Days of Open Hands”, followed by her featured spot on DNA’s “Tom’s Diner” and concluding with her own “Blood Makes Noise”.
In 1996, Vega returned with the similarly audacious Nine Objects Of Desire, also produced by Mitchell Froom, who by then was her husband. Over the years, she has been heard on soundtracks including Pretty In Pink (“Left Of Center” with Joe Jackson) and contributed to such diverse projects as the Disney compilation Stay Awake, Grateful Dead tribute Deadicated, and the Leonard Cohen tribute Tower Of Song. In 1999 The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writings Of Suzanne Vega, a volume of poems, lyrics, essays and journalistic pieces was published by Spike/ Avon Books. In 2001, she returned to her acoustic roots for her first new album in five years, the critics’ favorite, Songs In Red And Gray.
In 2007, Suzanne released the Grammy award winning Beauty & Crime on Blue Note Records, a deeply personal reflection of her native New York City in the wake of the loss of her brother Tim Vega and the tragedy of 9/11. Vega’s love for the city shines through as both its subject and its setting and she mixes the past and present, the public with the private, and familiar sounds with the utterly new, just like the city itself.
She is presently a member of the cast of the Off-Broadway production of Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. The New York Times said of her performance, “As our polymorphic host, the brandy-voiced Vega…is a delightful, smoothly sardonic presence…a discreetly entertaining font of omniscience.”