The inspiration for Suzanne Vega’sshow at the Café Carlyle is decidedly literary, the Southern writer Carson McCullers, author of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Vega, a consummate songstress known for her signature songs, “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner,” crosstown and far from the Carlyle on 112th Street and Broadway, claims she’s lived in all the New York neighborhoods except the really nice ones. At the Carlyle, she has arrived. Most important, she finds the uplift in Carson McCullers, singing about her rivals in “Harper Lee,” with snarky snipes at Virginia Woolf, Katherine Anne Porter, Truman Capote, and Lee, the author of only one book. “I’d like to kill more than that mockingbird,” she quips in Carson’s voice. No matter the jealousy at the heart of the writerly persona, in “Lover, Beloved” and “Carson’s Last Supper,” songs she wrote with Duncan Sheik, Vega asserts her muse’s theory of transcendent love: “the love of my life is humanity.”
That love fills the room. Vega, sounding large on acoustic guitar and backed byGerry Leonard’s electric guitar and Jason Hart’s piano, string synth, and synth bass, also tips a top hat to Marlene Deitrich for “Marlene on the Wall,” and toMolly Ringwald’s character in the teen movie Pretty in Pink for “Left of Center.” She wrote “Gypsy” when she was only 18, she says, in summer camp for a boy from Liverpool, with whom she bonded over Leonard Cohen. If she is invited back to the Carlyle next year, she’ll do New York songs, she promises. If she’s back, I’ll be there. I wouldn’t miss it.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.