Tag Archives: meltdown

Suzanne Vega (Meltdown, Queen Elizabeth Hall)

A slice of New York came to the Southbank Centre last weekend as the Meltdown Festival drew to a close; this year, Robert Smith from The Cure has curated an interesting mix of musicians, and it was good to share the first date of Vega’s international tour – taking in Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, and back to the UK – with an appreciative audience at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

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Image credit: Virginie Viche, The Upcoming

Vega made her first impact on folk music in 1985, with her first self-titled album, containing the single Marlene on the Wall, which she obligingly performed with the Dietrich hat firmly in place.  Now a woman in late middle age, Vega is immaculate, with a black trouser suit, glittery boots, and a lot of attitude, sparring with her guitarist, Gerry Leonard, who knows a lot about accompanying legends, having worked for years alongside the late David Bowie.  He’s also known for creating clever waves of sound which make the stage feel far more full than it is.

In a varied and interesting set, Vega shared both hits and pet songs with us, including her other big hit, Luka, her story song The Queen and the Soldier, the rockers Blood Makes Noise and I Never Wear White, the sweet ballads Small Blue Thing and Gypsy, and much more. She engages with her audience, too: many artists do not really talk, but she conspires, teases, and exudes a warmth I didn’t expect.

A very accomplished night was started by her support act, James Walsh of Starsailor, who impressed with Empire and If I Had The Words.  He made me think of Layne Staley at times with his vocals, and of Uriah Heep with the sheer sweep of his melodies.  Neither a bad thing.

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Chrissie Hynde – Royal Festival Hall

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Chrissie Hynde appeared as part of the Meltdown festival (this year curated by James Lavelle) at the Royal Festival Hall last night.  The bulk of the show was promoting her new album, ‘Stockholm’, which has only just been released, so we haven’t had a chance to hear or get to know the songs yet.  Still, ‘You or No One’ and ‘In a Miracle’ sound like songs which will repay multiple listens.

Flanked by Swedish flags and her touring band (more starry names appeared on the record, like Neil Young and John McEnroe), Hynde was in good voice and looked every inch the cool professional post-punk star in white jacket and old school tie.

Following the ‘Stockholm’ songs the mood changed to honour some of her favourite songwriters, with Jarvis Cocker’s ‘Walk Like A Panther’ being a particular highlight, sexy, laid-back and slightly dangerous.  The show finished with a couple of old favourites from The Pretenders days, ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ getting the audience out of their seats and streaming down the staircases and aisles for a dance, and ‘Hymn to Her’ (just Hynde and her keyboardist) being an effortless fusion of melody.

A quick note on the support act, Zacharias Blad, a Swede who with his family came through Swedish television talent shows.  His style is reminiscent of a camp Jim Morrison on speed, but he certainly has energy.  He’s probably the oddest live act I’ve seen in a long time.


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