Music review: Suzanne Vega, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow

New York songstress Suzanne Vega moved elegantly between styles for her Summer Nights show at Kelvingrove Bandstand, writes Fiona Shepherd

Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega

Suzanne Vega, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow ****

It may have been three years since the annual Summer Nights concerts last took over the Kelvingrove Bandstand, but much of the 2022 season looks as it did two years ago, with artists opting to reschedule several times over for a chance to play this lovely amphitheatre.

Such was the warm familiarity of the space that opening headliner Suzanne Vega was prompted to declare to the crowd that “I love you and we've only just met". Her audience, meanwhile, were initially shy/respectful but eventually warmed up to standard levels of Glaswegian cheekiness.

There were other love declarations in Vega’s set, not least the sultry bossa nova-flavoured Caramel (“and I’m not talking about dessert”), Gypsy, a relatively sophisticated song of first lust, written when she was 18, and its more sober sequel In Liverpool.

The New York songstress first emerged in the mid-80s as an old head on young shoulders and has maintained the balance of sagacity and playfulness, paying tribute in her set to both former Czech president Vaclav Havel in the elegiac Horizon and Elvis Costello in the Pump It Up-referencing Heroes.

She moved elegantly from the David and Goliath-inspired Rock In This Pocket, dedicated to the people of Ukraine, to the dark humour of I Never Wear White, supported at all times by David Bowie alumnus Gerry Leonard who supplied the fuzz guitar on the latter, the funky, rumbling undertone to Tom’s Diner and the ringing AOR tones to Marlene on the Wall.

The fragile and compelling Small Blue Thing, stately Solitude Standing and candid testimony of Luca were presented in their eloquent simplicity while Vega and Leonard cut loose in the encore on the grungey Blood Makes Noise and a suitably carefree rendition of Walk on the Wild Side by her fellow New Yorker Lou Reed.