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Review: Suzanne Vega at the Sage Gateshead

This tour, with only a handful of UK dates, accompanies the release of Tales from the Realms of the Queen of Pentangles, Vega’s first studio album in seven years

****
Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega

This tour, with only a handful of UK dates, accompanies the release of Tales from the Realms of the Queen of Pentangles, Vega’s first studio album in seven years.

With this worrisome title my immediate thoughts were: is this a prog rock album showing the worst excesses of ELP and Yes?

My fears are allayed when Vega, in a top hat, plays two songs from the new album, The Fools Complaint and Crack in the Wall, after commencing with Marlene on the Wall, a huge hit from her first album. No sign of Spinal Tap symptoms yet but there’s still time.

The jingly jangly arpeggios of Gerry Leonard’s guitar complement Vega’s pitch-perfect voice in the brilliant Jacob and the Angel (the words to which she hasn’t yet mastered, hence the crib sheet) and Small Blue Thing.

With phrasing and lilting melodies Paul Simon would be proud of, the atmospheric Queen and the Soldier and In Liverpool are trademark Vega, her voice weaving around her gentle fingerstyle guitar phrasing.

Particularly enjoyable from her new album is the rocky I Never Wear White, with a driving riff reminiscent of Blur’s Song 2.

High points in the show are the brilliant Luka, sounding as fresh as ever, and Tom’s Diner with the legendary hookline, one everyone must recognise even if they don’t know the song title.

As an encore she does Take a Walk on the Wildside in preparation for Jools Holland’s show on BBC Radio 2. A major voice in the crop of post-Joni Mitchell singer-songwriters, Vega’s star is on the rise again.

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