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Suzanne Vega on Acoustic Cafe

Listen to Suzanne Vega performing in the studio and being interviewed by Rob Reinhart on Acoustic Cafe

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g' rendition of 

Suzanne Vega's Keyboardist
Lives on the Second Floor

Recap of Suzanne Vega Live at City Hall Park, NYC

by Lou V

August 27, 2007, Lower Manhattan, NYC -- On Friday I left work at 5pm and went down to J & R to check out some free-in-City-Hall-Park music and see if I could get my sister a birthday present. Suzanne Vega and two R&B/soul guys were playing Javier, Suzanne Vega, and J. Holiday was the lineup. As is typical tradition with J & R City Hall Park concerts, each plays for a half hour or so, and then goes inside to autograph their record if you buy it -- an 'in-store' performance in the park.

The concert started at 5pm, so I figured I'd see Vega around 6pm and still be able to get home at a reasonable hour. There were wall-to-wall people  a couple of hundred people in the space in front of the stage, and maybe eight hundred or so overall in the side of the park by the stage. As the three were announced, Javier got a lot of applause, Vega got minimal applause, and the crowd ERUPTED for Holiday. Lots of Latino and black girls, age 16 to 25. Javier went first and he was good; good voice, acoustic guitar, band behind him but not my cup of tea on the music. Too much hint of Lionel Richie-esqueness R&B to the overall sound. Suzanne Vega was Not next; Holiday was. So I went inside J & R to take a quick look around for a gift for my sister; I didn't find anything but bought the movie "The Beatniks" instead, for $4.95. I'd been looking for this movie for some time. I watched it Friday night -- it mostly sucked, mainly because it's false advertising. THERE ARE NO BEATNIKS IN THIS MOVIE. It should've been called "The Hooligans". I really want to get the movie "The Young Hellions" now, which from scenes watched on youtube, promises to be a movie with Beatniks in it. At least High School beatniks, and John Barrymore (Drew's uncle or father?), and Uncle Fester as a drug dealer.

Anyway as I'm leaving J & R, the manager shuts and locks the doors in front of me because Holiday has just finished his set and there are hundreds of Screaming Women running toward the store for his autograph session. It was Beatle-esque.

Manager said he'd have to close the store for five minutes until they could get everyone in line, otherwise they'd bust into the store. And so a small crowd of people trying to leave the store starts to gather behind me, including Javier who finished his autograph session and comes up and stands beside me. A lady comes up on my left and asks what the heck is going on, so I tell her there's a concert in the park, and he (pointing both to the poster in front of me and Javier on my right) sang first, and J. Holiday sang next and all these gals are coming for his autograph.

I wasn't late for Vega. I easily walked right up to the front of the stage and then waited while her band did sound check. There was a problem with the keyboard, and the keyboardist was testing and testing and testing it. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes went by and you could see J & R management getting all antsy because their store closes at 7:30pm, and this was obviously going to cause them to go at least until 8pm. At one point three pretty, young Latino girls came up and stood besides me near the stage. An artsy Peter-O'Toole-looking fellow in his late forties with a video camera, obviously a Suzanne Vega denizen fan, turned directly around and started videotaping them up close, telling them how colorful they were. It was a good line and they seemed amused by it; they were wearing colorful clothing. I was surprised that Vega was still enlisting a young audience until one turned and asked me if Holiday was up next and I said no, he went on already and is across the street signing autographs and they said something like 'oh no' and took off pronto for J & R. The videoguy turned to me and said with a sad refrain "like a butterfly..", holding up and fluttering his right hand slowly.

The keyboardist kept testing and testing and finally said it was a no go at 7pm, after 35 minutes of waiting. They brought a new keyboard out, which had a huge dent in its side, and she began her meticulous testing again. At that point I had to go home I couldn't wait all night. As I was leaving I took some video of Suzanne Vega behind the stage waiting anxiously to go on, and then finally just as I was heading away, her introductions came and she went on. I'd seen her two years ago at the opening of 7 WTC -- a windy, sunny afternoon that wasn't conducive to a good live show, especially the quieter sound of a Vega. It must be said that at that same windy outdoor environ, The Brazilian Girls blew me away; even as the wind literally blew their instruments away from them from time to time (microphones and drumkits were sent flying).  

I am sure Vega blew away the crowd at her City Hall Park show in NYC on August 27th; I couldn't stick around but there was no wind and it was getting dark out by the time she was coming on. And darkness and still air mean a lot for an artist like Vega who sets a mood.

This video is of Javier entering J&R to sign autographs, and then the long wait for Suzanne Vega as her keyboardist tried to reconcile issues with her keyboard. Even Vega's introduction took like 10 minutes.

My suspicion is that the schedule, which had Vega listed second and Holiday third, was originally correct, but Vega's management (Aimee Mann's management, Michael Hausman, just took over Vega's management and they're doing a great job; Vega is all over the place -- cover of magazines and what not) probably insisted she go last. But Holiday ruled the night anyway. J. Holiday by the way went on in minutes after Javier. It didn't take his keyboard player 45 minutes of sound check. Although, he could have probably blown his nose up there and gotten applause (like the Beatles at Shea Stadium).

Click for more:

Why I want to see The Young Hellions

Beatnik Poetry in The Young Hellions

More Beatnik Poetry

John Barrymore in The Young Hellions

Suzanne Vega Playing Music

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