Perhaps the most interesting side aspect of this release of a 2003 concert by folk rocker Suzanne Vega is what appears to be an oscillation between readiness and an indifference to talking about her work. In between songs and in the bonus interview, she speaks to matters in and about this, that, and the other thing but often enough with a somewhat disaffected distance, as though she might consider explanations to be superfluous, perhaps even impertinent, and I have to say I agree with her, if that's indeed her sentiment, especially in view of the nature of the singer-player-composer's oeuvre, as poetic as it is. After all, a really good poet probably should only very rarely explain his or her work, as the larger part of the attraction of poetry lies in its internal distinctiveness to the reader, its personal resonances.
There are four poem readings (translated by Valerio Piccolo for the Italian audience) interspersed throughout an hour-long performance musically featuring just Vega and a bass player, an atmosphere that moves her music closer to the readings and between-song quips. Gone are the later career experiments in dance beats and industrial work in favor of the early purer refrains and modalities that launched her career. Those who gravitated to those gentle but compelling ditties will find very familiar territory everywhere. Oddly, the DVD isn't an evocation of her sophomore effort of the same name but instead just a cool gig somewhat along intimate Joni Mitchell lines.
The slow, hushed, and halting nature of the release may explain the decade-plus delay of this release, and some of the exchanges with Piccolo are a tad clumsy, but that, I think, is reflective of the often loose cafe nature of Vega's work, an atmosphere going back the late 50s (beats) and early 60s (hippies) when Kerouac, informality, rebellion against established forms, and zen were in vogue (Vega is in fact a Sokka Gakai Int'nat'l. Nichiren Buddhist). It may even be that this was where she was experimenting in what would later manifest in her and Duncan Sheik's play Carson McCullers Talks About Love, which is likewise a blend of spoken word and music. Regardless, Solitude Standing: Live is the chanteuse in the guise most love her for, and a very pleasant trip back down memory lane.
WARNING: Don't block-jump this DVD when you get that idiotic introductory FBI 'Warning' every DVD carries, or it'll send you straight into the bonus feature, an interview between Vega and Piccolo, and you'll be sitting there, wondering what the hell's going on, curious if this is a bizarre new wrinkle in concert prefacing or what. In that respect, it's annoying as hell, but on its own, the interview's a nice addition. Just thought ya'd wanna know.
SECOND WARNING: Also don't mistake this for a recent 25th anniversary limited edition disc celebrating Solitude Standing (that one's Solitude Standing: Live at the Barbican). Neither that nor this is really a revivification but, hey, what's to complain? Ya get more Suzanne with both of these, so quitcher bitchin'!
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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