WITH COVID-19 resulting in live shows becoming very small affairs and restricting artists to touring within their own national borders, the live album has - as it was during its 1970s heyday - become again one of the few ways to experience an artist in concert.
Given Suzanne Vega has not played Galway in c15 years, this new album is the closest we will come to a show from her for some time.
Vega has taken a creative approach to this release. It is, in effect, a live concept album (not even Yes came up with that one ), with all the songs, relating in some way to the places, people, or experience of New York.
This is a warm, highly engaging recording, showing the range of Vega’s songwriting. Thankfully her between song chat is left in, giving the recording an intimacy, the illusion that we are there, and - fittingly for these times - a sense of connection with artist and audience.
'Coming at a time when the experience of live music is so restricted, makes this album especially welcome'
Naturally her masterworks - ‘Marlena On The Wall’, ‘Luka’, and the short story as song, ‘Tom’s Diner’ are all present and sound as brilliant as ever, but this album also provides a showcase for lesser known tracks.
‘NY Is My Destination’ is a brilliantly spirited, waltzing, show tune, capturing author Carson McCullers in The Big Apple; the poignant ‘New York Is A Woman’ is an unsentimental look at the romanticism people project onto the city; ‘Cracking’ reveals a more indie-rock side to Vega, with shades of R.E.M.; while the haunting ‘Some Journey’ concludes with ‘Pinball Wizard’-esque riffing. There is also a rather nice cover of Lou Reed's 'Walk On The Wild Side'.
This would be a welcome album at any time, but its heart and intelligence, and coming at a time when the experience of live music is so restricted, make it especially welcome now.