By Leslie Witt

Suzanne Vega possesses much of the elegance of stars like Marlene Dietrich, who inspired one of her best-known songs, and her top hat and tux attire, at two XRT shows at SPACE. Vega opened her classy set with “Marlene on the Wall,” explaining that a poster of the German actress/singer kept a watchful eye on her coming of age. The song embodies Vega’s talent for spinning her observations and insights into poetry. Vega’s perfect diction, velvet voice, and strumming acoustic guitar melodies bring the songs to life.

Vega’s visions became larger-than-life, given the electric guitar dynamics of her accompanist, Gerry Leonard, a core player on David Bowie’s forthcoming album. Leonard provided bass, rhythm, leads and synthesis enough for an entire band, melding subtly with Vega’s style, though his solo on “Blood Makes Noise” made palpable the doctor’s office panic attack Vega has written about.

Since her 1985 debut, Vega has grown a loyal cadre of fans, especially with songs like “Pretty in Pink,” “Luka,” a stunning window into child abuse, the bossa nova flavored “Caramel,” and “Tom’s Diner,” which morphed into a remix hit when British duo DNA added beats to the a cappella original.

Vega played many favorites, and revealed some songs written just days before, she said, holding up the notebook paper with lyrics. The lively “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain,” based on Leonard’s recent thrift shop purchase, was one standout that will hopefully wind up on a new Vega album later this year or next.


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