Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Suzanne Vega virtually returns to Park City
Suzanne Vega plans to bring a little bit of New York to Park City on Wednesday.
The Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, known for the hits “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner,” will perform a livestreaming concert from New York’s iconic Blue Note Jazz Club, and Park City Institute is one of the facilitators.
Streaming passes can be purchased by visiting parkcityinstitute.org, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the local performing arts nonprofit. The streaming website will be provided to pass holders, and they will have 72 hours to watch the concert, according to Park City Institute Executive Director Ari Ioannides.
Vega, who last played live at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts in Park City in 2015, is looking forward to the livestream, which will include most of the material from her live album “An Evening of New York Songs and Stories” that was released last month.
“We will probably perform everything from the album, which is sort of what we would do on a tour,” Vega said. “We may mix in one or two songs that I like that we didn’t use in the live album set.”
Vega recorded “An Evening of New York Songs and Stories” last year at the Cafe Carlyle in New York, and she enjoyed selecting the songs for the set list.
“Sometimes we want to mix things up,” she said. “I think it’s important to do songs that people want to hear, but if you do all the songs that people want to hear you just end up with a greatest hits collection, which can be tedious.”
The venue also influenced Vega’s song choices.
“The Cafe Carlyle has a specific atmosphere, and it’s almost like a lounge,” she said. “So I picked some of the songs like ‘Pornographer’s Dream’ and ‘Thin Man’ because they have that loungey vibe to them. I thought that was fun, because we never really get to play those songs.”
The idea to record a live album took a couple of years to pan out, Vega said.
“The first time I played there was in 2017, and I learned at that time that performing a two-week run is not like playing a regular show,” she said. “It’s like an off-Broadway show where you really have to hit the ground running, and you have to really know what you’re going to do.”
So when Cafe Carlyle asked Vega back, she was more prepared.
“We knew what we were doing ahead of time,” she said. “I also had a whole look going, with my dress and my hair. And since it all worked so well, I thought, ‘Let’s record,’ and the rest is history.”
Keeping with the off-Broadway show idea, the album includes the song “New York Is My Destination” that is culled from Vega’s 2011 one-woman play, “Lover, Beloved: Songs from an Evening with Carson McCullers.”
Vega became a fan of Southern gothic novelist Carson McCullers after reading the short, coming-of-age story “Sucker.”
McCullers originally wrote the story in the 1930s, and it was published in the 1960s. Vega first read it as a teenager in the 1970s.
“At that time I thought McCullers was a contemporary of mine, and since her name was Carson, I thought she was a boy,” Vega said. “So I couldn’t believe it when I found out she was a woman who was 50 years old.”
Another song Vega decided to include on the live album is a cover of the late Lou Reed’s “Take a Walk on the Wild Side,” a composition he rarely played live.
Vega met Reed in the 1980s and they remained good friends until he passed away in 2013, she said.
The idea to cover the song came after Reed’s death, when she and her musical director and guitarist Gerry Leonard were asked to perform a string of Lou Reed memorials.
“I would ask what songs would be left for us to do and ‘Take a Walk on the Wild Side’ would always be there,” Vega said. “So, Gerry and I started to do it live, and we kept it as part of the show. So we decided to throw it into the set and see how it goes, and I thought it worked pretty well.”
Vega puts a lot of trust in Leonard when it comes to arrangements and performances.
“He knows what I’m capable of, but at the same time he tries to make sure I’m able to move around more while I’m on stage,” she said. “Sometimes I feel him nudging me along. He’ll challenge me when we perform live, and prompt me with ideas that give some drama to the songs.”
Vega initially wanted to do the livestreaming concerts from the Cafe Carlyle, but changed plans due to equipment issues.
“They don’t have the equipment to facilitate livestreaming,” she said. “We decided to go with the Blue Note because I still wanted to play at a jazz club in New York, something that had that genuine vibe. I had played the Blue Note in Italy and Japan, and New York was eager for us to play there.”
Although Vega is focused on the livestreamings, she is already looking toward her next project.
“I would love to have a new collection of songs, and release them in 2022,” she said. “That’s my next goal, in addition to staying healthy and helping out in New York in whatever way I can to make sure we don’t have a second wave of COVID.”
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