Suzanne Vega, One World Theatre, May 20

Live Shots

Suzanne Vega

One World Theatre, May 20

"You should feel free to speak up," said Suzanne Vega by way of enticing the rapt, full house to call out requests. "In New York, they just shout it out." And so they did, the plush, intimate venue on Bee Caves Road taking on the feel of a Kerrville afterhours campfire. Following sultry opener "Marlene on the Wall" with said invite, Vega, accompanied by only a bassist, next plunged into quantum mechanics primer "Small Blue Thing" and the mouth-watering "Caramel." Pausing, Vega put hand to brow, peering into an Austin audience that was now pretending it was a night out at the New York's Bottom Line. "Left of Center" came a cry -- "Blood Sings," do that one. "No, no," said Vega. "Not that one." That was, after all, the nature of simulating open mike night with one of the premier singer-songwriters of the past 15 years; she deflected requests like plastic Pepsi bottles thrown at a punk rock show. "When Heroes Go Down" didn't sound readymade for a solo performance, its spirited, upbeat reading coming off as if a backing fourpiece were intent on shaking off first-set jitters, but the stately "Queen and the Soldier" did. "Rock in This Pocket (Song of David)," classic Vega in its frank exploration of dysfunctional relationships -- this one between Biblical co-stars David and Goliath -- came off slightly more organic, but no less spellbinding. "Honeymoon Suite," someone yelled. "One doesn't like to sing about a honeymoon when one is divorcing one's husband," replied Vega with no small amount of irony. Guess visionary knobster Mitchell Froom won't be producing the follow-up to Vega's beguiling last LP, 1996's Nine Objects of Desire; one of three new songs the singer hopes to release on a new album next year, "Widow's Walk," sounded like it needed Froom to compensate for the song's slightly paint-by-the-numbers, Vega-esque feel. Not so of stirring set-enders, "In Liverpool"and "Luka," which played set-up to sole encore "Tom's Diner," featuring the audience singing and snapping their fingers while being led by Vega a cappella. The second set, a separate show, saw most of the evening's first set list repeated, notable additions including "Bad Wisdom" and "World Before Columbus." Naturally, Vega's invitation to call out for songs was repeated. "Poor Runover Pig," a composition by the singer's five-year-old daughter, somehow got requested, and though she laughingly declined its debut, Vega's folk-singer moxie begged witness from thousands of pilgriming singer-songwriter hardcores at Kerrville.

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