starring Suzanne Vega
Every once in a while, call it serendipity or divine intervention, the timing seems just perfect when a “Where are they now?” question pops in my mind and coincidentally, a story or a show about it suddenly appears. So, when the opportunity to review Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing DVD appeared, I had to oblige. The DVD, actually called “Giri di parole” (the Italian phrase for “beating around the bush”), is the release of an old 2003 performance that must have sat for years in some studio vault waiting for someone to pick up. This performance is an hour of reflective observations, poetry, and songs from the ’80s waify folky singer known for the provocative song of child abuse in “Luka,” and the meanderings at “Tom’s Diner,” a song which is probably better known by most from its re-mix by the electronic dance duo DNA.
The video quality is rather lo-fi and seems to have been put together on a shoestring budget. Ms. Vega appears on a bare stage with a bass player on her left, and on her right the Italian singer/songwriter Valerio Piccolo, who sat like a lump on a stool except to translate to an Italian audience Ms. Vega’s comments about her next song, and select stanzas of her poetry. The translations unfortunately dampened my enjoyment of this DVD as I frequently reached for the fast-forward button. A bit of editing for a U.S. release would have been highly appreciated, especially given that the 10-minute interview with Mr. Piccolo on the DVD’s extras was all in English without translation.
Still, these are small annoyances compared to the great satisfaction of listening to Ms. Vega’s small blue things of musical gems, commanding undivided attention and intense hunger for consuming every word of her timeless ballads. It is the desperate boy who throws himself from the tower “In Liverpool,” the gripping struggles with faith and doubt in “Penitent,” and the turmoil of compromising love for a royal ego in the emotive ballad, “The Queen and the Solder” — quite a timely reboot with today’s “Game of Thrones” hype. I never thought that 20 years later, I’d now be thinking of the Mother of Dragons listening to this song. I suppose that like a good poem, a good song takes on new meaning with time and situation.
So, as the credits rolled at the end of this DVD, I did find myself wanting to see her live. This is the hope of a well played move to release the DVD in early May when Ms. Vega kicks off tour around the U.S. through the spring and a residency at New York’s City Winery this summer.