My student days at DCU influenced my own music activities in two major ways. Firstly there were the regular gigs in the student union bar, singing Britpop, Beatles and Christy Moore to crowds of drunken students. I cut my live teeth during those years and have some hazy memories of great nights. But the other big influence centred around the DCU Folk Group, attached to the chapel on campus. The religious bit gradually became less relevant for me, but playing with some of the great musicians I met there opened up a new world of lyrical songwriting and contemporary folk to me, and inspired me to broaden my own musical horizons. It was the first time I heard songs like Closer To Fine by the Indigo Girls, Martha’s Harbour by All About Eve, and any number of Suzanne Vega songs.
All of which is a roundabout (and probably not all that interesting!) way of explaining why it is I went to see Suzanne Vega singing live for the third time in Lausanne last night. Even though she’s not one of my all-time favourites, since those student days in Dublin I’ve always considered her to be a songwriter worth listening to. And she is.
In Amsterdam the last time the set-up was more of a cabaret style show, all seated. This Lausanne venue somehow created an atmosphere that was more alive, even if it never really caught fire. She opened with Marlene on the Wall and closed with Luka and Tom’s Diner – all very good. But tonight for me the highlights were some of the slower ones. Gypsy (“hold me like a baby that will not fall asleep”) and The Queen and the Soldier (a DCU-evoking one for me) were beautifully sung, as was In Liverpool.
I think the crowd would have been happy to hear more new material from a woman whose songwriting abilities they clearly knew well. I’m sure she has fresh stories to tell and plenty of great melodies still to offer – the couple of new songs she played were up to her usual standard. But it’s always good to hear the familiar songs too, and that seems to be the focus of the live shows these days.
Would I go to hear her sing again, a fourth time? Definitely.
Here’s a nice performance of Gypsy, including the same little story she told ahead of it last night.