My name is Luka, I live on the second floor, I live upstairs from you, Yes I think you’ve seen me before, If you hear something late at night, Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight, Just don’t ask me what it was


Suzanne Vega is dark. You may not realise it, but she is.

She never wears white and she tells us as much. “I never wear white. Black is the truth of my situation. My colour is black. It’s the depth of your eyes”.

And, then Luka:

My name is Luka, I live on the second floor, I live upstairs from you, Yes I think you’ve seen me before, If you hear something late at night, Some kind of trouble, some kind of fight, Just don’t ask me what it was

Suzanne Vega’s best known song is a searing tale of child abuse and neglect. It’s all the more powerful because it takes a good hard listen to the lyrics, it’s a tough story.

Tom’s Diner hits almost as hard. You know the song because of the Do Dit Do Doh refrain. But it’s actually not an easy listen either when you get down to the details of the words: There’s a woman on the outside, looking inside. Does she see me? No she does not really see me ‘cause she sees her own reflection.

Suzanne Vega belies her sweet sound with tough subject matter. Her voice is typically Americana, country roads, wide spaces and waffles with maple syrup. A portion of wings later on in the afternoon with a cold Bud. She’s all comfy and safe and non-challenging. Except, she’s not. She’s far from it.

Billed as an evening of New York Songs and Stories tonight gave us an insight as to what makes her tick.

There’s a red glow about the Phil stage as David Bowie’s Sound and Vision doesn’t exactly blast the PA. This is the Phil, after all. They don’t do ear splitting noise.

But Suzanne Vega’s arrival on stage is a welcome as loud as we’ve heard in this room. And she’s wearing a top hat. Yeah a top hat. Opening with Marlene on the Wall, this was looking good from the off. Marlene watches from the wall, as well she might, for there are tales to be told.



There’s a new album called New York Songs and Stories. And we got both. It would spoil the show for those of you yet to see it. But, New York, people and relationships are themes running through this gig.

Dating, mostly, according to her between song conversation. There are quite a few stories of good, and less bad, hook ups. The ones her mother approved of and the one where she (her mother) asked if he (the prospective boyfriend) still had a long and slender body.

Suzanne Vega lays herself quite naked to this audience, but she maintains the power despite that baring of her soul. She maybe a woman with an acoustic guitar, but by fuck, she’s not taking one single prisoner.

Surprisingly bluesy and smokey, this was a very different animal from the one we’d anticipated having heard her records all those years ago.

There is a depth and a richness we hadn’t expected. She told us she fell in love with a guy after talking over Leonard Cohen songs. That’s maybe all you need to know. Along with her love of a full English breakfast.

There was a marriage proposal on the front row as Suzanne was talking about one of her other boyfriends. We’re not fucking joking. Guy stands up in the middle of the gig and asks his partner for their hand in marriage. She said “Yeah”. Not quite sure Suzanne Vega knew what to make of it, but it seemed, oddly, appropriate in a Suzanne Vega gig. No idea what we were expecting. Not that.

Support act, John Smith from Essex, Somerset, Brighton and Liverpool (and some other places we didn’t catch) doesn’t make for an easy Google. But he has an appealing, languid, style about his songs. A powerful voice and an enjoyable half hour set. There’s a folkish feel to his work. Just the thing for this Phil audience. And a decent foil for Suzanne Vega. He referenced The Jacaranda and The Magnet as places where he started off. We like to think Vega would have been at home in those damp, small, once smoky, basement venues as well.

Oh. And by the way, Vega was brilliant.



Set List

Marlene on the Wall

Freeze Tag



In Liverpool

The Queen and the Soldier

Frank & Ava

New York Is My Destination

New York Is a Woman

Left of Center

I Never Wear White

Some Journey


Tom’s Diner