Tiny Desk

Suzanne Vega

Download Audio

18 min 11 sec

In pop-music circles, Suzanne Vega is known almost entirely for two songs from the late 1980s: the child-abuse ballad "Luka" and a song that launched literally dozens of dance remixes, "Tom's Diner." But Vega has been making vital, inventive music the entire time — much of it folk-based, though her sound has taken many smart detours along the way — and is about to put out her first album of original material in seven years, Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles. The challenge, then, lies in capturing a snapshot of her career in only four songs.

For this Tiny Desk Concert — performed with her brilliant guitarist and producer, Gerry Leonard — Vega splits the difference evenly between old and new, bookending her set with the aforementioned classics and tucking two about-to-be-released songs in the middle. Game and good-spirited throughout, Vega performed "Luka" and "Tom's Diner" as if she hadn't played them thousands of times before — aided greatly by Leonard, who's worked extensively with David Bowie and lends these songs an extraordinary amount of color and texture. (Check out the "bells" he adds near the end of "Tom's Diner.")

Vega's songwriting gifts haven't waned at any point in her long career, and the new songs here — taken from a concept album about the way our world and the spiritual realm intersect — sound as sharp as anything she's done. It only makes sense that, nearly 30 years after her debut, she still examines new realms with grace, empathy and an explorer's spirit.

Set List
  • "Luka"
  • "Crack In The Wall"
  • "I Never Wear White"
  • "Tom's Diner"
Credits

Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Gabriella Garcia-Pardo, Olivia Merrion; photo by Meredith Rizzo/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Concert with Shamir Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Shamir

The singer's disco-infused funk and soul gets stripped down to a lone voice with a guitar.

Tiny Desk Concert with Paul Weller. Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Paul Weller

See the beloved Britpop veteran perform songs from his new album, Saturns Pattern.

Tiny Desk Concert with Kate Tempest. Lani Milton/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton/NPR

Tiny Desk

Kate Tempest

A celebrated English playwright and rapper deploys storytelling and poetry.

Tiny Desk Concert with Songhoy Blue Lani Milton /NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Lani Milton /NPR

Tiny Desk

Songhoy Blues

See a Malian band that fuses African music with Western rock.

Tiny Desk Concert with Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad of Girlpool. Maggie Starbard/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Girlpool

The charming duo performs three of the simple, direct songs from Before The World Was Big.

Tiny Desk Concert with Christopher Paul Stelling. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Christopher Paul Stelling

Best witnessed live, Stelling's music is steeped in tradition yet filled with vitality and soul.

Tiny Desk Concert with And The Kids. Morgan McCloy/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

And The Kids

The trio's music is full of life, with dissonant sounds that still feel suited for singalongs.

Tiny Desk Concert with Oddisee Colin Marshall/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Colin Marshall/NPR

Tiny Desk

Oddisee

The charismatic Brooklyn-via-D.C.-area rapper creates just the right amount of space in his music.

Tiny Desk Concert with Hop Along. Maggie Starbard/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Hop Along

Frances Quinlan's raspy voice whispers one moment, then lets loose a gut-punching howl the next.

Tiny Desk Concert with Timothy Showalter, songwriter and producer of Strand of Oaks. Maggie Starbard /NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Maggie Starbard /NPR

Tiny Desk

Strand Of Oaks

Timothy Showalter's music is filled with bite and sometimes regret, but also a good deal of warmth.

Back To Top