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Suzanne Vega 

Wednesday, August 13, at Peabodys.

Suzanne Vega
  • Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega's voice is a glass of ice water in your sunburned hand. Yet its insistent cool can be a problem. No matter how precise her diction is or how refined her tone, many listeners hear her newer records as more of the same. Unless they see Vega perform.

It would make sense if Vega were a bore live; she doesn't use a big band, her music is not particularly bound to the backbeat, and the strongest feeling most of her recordings communicate is dispassion. But something happens when she's onstage. Words, delightfully weightless in the privacy of home or automobile, strain under the weight they bear.

This time around, she's sure to be at her most intense. Vega's latest, 2001's Songs in Red and Gray, was shadowed by her divorce from husband and producer Mitchell Froom. The standout track on Songs is "(I'll Never Be) Your Maggie Mae," in which Vega rejects the role of desperate older woman: "I'd rather take myself away/Be like those ladies in Japan/Rather paint myself a face/Conjure up some grace/ Or be the eyes behind a fan." In "If I Were a Weapon," her partner imagines that she's a gun. She replies: "I feel more like a needle/Always pulling on the thread/ Always making the same point again/And wondering if you've heard what I just said." She could be singing about her marriage or her career. If it's the latter, that's hardly a bad thing. See Vega live to tighten the stitch.

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