Suzanne Vega | photo by Cameron Pollack

Suzanne Vega stopped by World Cafe Life for the second time in 2014, following a sold-out Free @ Noon performance at the World Cafe Downstairs stage. Despite it being nearly thirty years since her debut self-titled album dropped in 1985, her performance is just as compelling and entertaining as it was in the late 80’s. Vega’s show was largely stripped down, as she forewent a drummer and bass player, and was only accompanied by Gerry Leonard, a virtuoso guitarist who has played with David Bowie and Rufus Wainwright. She took frequent breaks between songs to explain background for various songs, and was able to seamlessly interact with the audience, many of whom were return concertgoers from Vega’s Free @ Noon performance earlier this year.

Vega blended perfectly a mix of her oldest material from her first two albums, Suzanne Vega and Solitude Standing, and her newest material, including her latest single “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain.” Her lyricism has obviously shifted in tone from her earliest records, even dropping a reference to Macklemore and his hit single “Thrift Shop” during one of the final verses of “Don’t Uncork.” As the night progressed, I grew to like more and more her older material, particularly key tracks from the first two records. Her track “The Queen And The Soldier” has the most homeric quality in its lyrics, and showcases Vega’s compelling lyricism and intricate storytelling. “Left of Center” showed off Gerry Leonard’s guitar prowess, featuring incredible loop pedal aptitude and percussive playing as well. Vega put a haunting twist on her hit track “Luka,” cutting out percussion and singing it a capella as it originally appeared on Solitude Standing, making way for the haunting nature of the track’s lyrics.

Overall, Vega treated me to an extremely enjoyable night of incredible lyricism mixed with shimmering folk and virtuoso guitar talent. My father fell in love with Vega in 1988, and remembers searching the Upper West side of New York City for Tom’s Diner as a college student. More than two decades later, Vega left an equally great impression on me, giving me an incredible appreciation for her infectious songwriting and chord structure and equally astounding lyrical talent.

Joining Vega was Bronx-bred Ari Hest, warming up the audience with a vast repertoire spanning 15 years of warm baritone vocals mixed with hearty, Beatles-influenced guitar folk.