So it is perhps strange that I had never owned a Suzanne Vega album until a year or two ago, when I picked up a live recording of a concert in London that she'd done to celebrate 25 years since the release of "Solitude Standing", her breakthrough album.
It was very good, with her voice sounding like it had in her prime and her chatty, easy going interaction with the crowd being very appealing (to me).
I spotted, somewhere, that she was playing a gig in London (at the Cadogan Hall off Sloane Square) and decided I'd see if that CD reflected into a live experience.
I turned up early, after a day in the office, so went in search of something to eat, which I failed in, although I did find a small pub, The Antelope, nearby and had a pint.
I returned to the Cadogan Hall about 7:15 and made my way to my seat (D1 - seven back from the front right against the right hand wall on the ground floor - View and sound was fine, I doubt there's a bad seat there to be honest) in time to see "My Girl, The River" the support act.
Formed of a silver haired, bespectacled American woman (with a good voice and a guitar) and an Englishman in a hat, with a double bass, they played a number of tracks from their first album and one or two planned for their follow up.
At one point, the man announced he wrote the 'next song' back in the 1980s with a friend and that it had then been covered by Annie Lennox. The song was "No More I Love Yous" and the duo were joined by their 11 year old daughter who added some depth to the chorus high notes along with the man. It was very good, but, for me, the highlight.
Technically I suspect they were really quite good, but somehow they didn't appeal greatly to me. They certainly weren't unpleasant to listen to though.
There was a 30 minute break to get drinks, dispose of the last ones or stretch your legs (Cadogan Hall is all seater and much more familiar to people who enjoy classical music) and then, as people returned to their seats, the lights dimmed.
An announcer proclaimed "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome on stage, Suzanne Vega"... and a slightly dishevelled looking man arrived...
This proved to be Gerry Leonard, who is a bit of a whizz on the guitar.
A few moments later, and clearly enjoying the little joke on us, Suzanne arrived.
This 'mini-tour' ("We're in the middle of our UK tour - It started yesterday and finishes tomorrow!") was billed as songs from her new album (and play) "Lover, Beloved: An Evening With Carson McCullers" (Go look it up, this isn't wikipedia!) so there was a slight fear that we may just get a load of new (and maybe not that great) songs.
Fortunately, Suzanne Vega is a compassionate, wise, professional, confident and talented performer, so she started with a few old favourites to get everyone on her side (Later she was to comment that it's better to do some old songs first or everyone is just waiting for her to get to them).
"Marlene on the Wall" and "Caramel" were excellently performed and warmly received and it was very quickly clear that her voice has held up well. Still slightly breathy and talky, but distinctive and clear.
Happily, too, her little chats between songs, explaining the back story to the next song (Reminding me of an old Two Ronnies skit where Mr Barker, as Nana Mouskourri, explained a song at great length, only for the song to last just a few seconds!) is a common event and she comes over as a truly wonderful, interesting person.
She's no dancer, for sure, and doesn't rely on theatricals (Pop up Top Hat aside!), but she has an undeniable stage presence that I've rarely seen.
After some more older songs, all rapturously received and brilliantly performed (the duo were joined by another man on Piano after a while), Suzanne explained who Carson McCullers was and her interest in her and the reason for the new album (and the play it span out from).
The first song she performed was "New York Is My Destination", a smouldering, jazzy New York kind of song and, maybe I shouldn't say it, but surprisingly good! It's too soon to say it's up there with "Luka" and "Left Of Center", but honestly, that was my first thought!
"We of Me" and "Harper Lee" were very different songs, but equally notable and enjoyable - This new album is going to be damned good!
After that she returned to her back catalogue, giving the appreciative audience "Left Of Center", "I Never Wear White" (almost a rock anthem!), "Some Journey" and the iconic "Luka" and "Tom's Diner" (in a version closer to the famed DNA remix one, but with a very electric guitar rock feel, courtesy of Gerry).
Needless to say the audience didn't depart at that point and the trio returned a few minutes later to perform the excellent "In Liverpool" (A song I've grown to love from my live CD) and then two more from "Lover, Beloved", the title track and "Carson's Last Supper".
It had been a great evening and the word I heard most as we left was "talented". She clearly has talent in spades, but also a quiet confidence that makes her an enjoyable and engaging performer to spend an evening with...A bit of a star, I'd say!
Highly recommended if you get the opportunity.
Fat Man & Dancing Girl
Marlene on the Wall
Crack in the Wall
Jacob and the Angel
Small Blue Thing
The Queen and the Soldier
New York Is My Destination*
We of Me*
Left of Center
I Never Wear White
Carson's Last Supper*
*From Lover, Beloved: An Evening With Carson McCullers.
After a busy couple of weeks, I think that's my gig going doing for 2016!