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 Zac Sokolow (left), Frank Fairfield and Tom Marion. Emily Jan/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Emily Jan/NPR

Tiny Desk

Frank Fairfield

A young man with an old musical soul has a spellbinding voice and fluid fiddle playing.

Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Young Fathers

Intense, hip-hop-infused poetry is reduced to just the essentials in this two-song, four-minute set.

Maggie Starbard/NPR

Tiny Desk

Camané

A star in his native Portugal, Camané evokes melancholy with a silky baritone and elegant phrasing.

Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Bellows

These are enchanting songs, with the power to drift in your head for days.

Morgan McCloy/NPR

Tiny Desk

Eskmo

Found objects are percussion instruments in the hands of a man who's part musician, part magician.

Vijay Iyer Trio performs a Tiny Desk Concert on April 20, 2015. Olivia Merrion/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Olivia Merrion/NPR

Tiny Desk

Vijay Iyer Trio

Iyer's working band transforms selections from throughout the pianist's deep and varied catalog.

Tiny Desk Concert with José González. NPR hide caption

itoggle caption NPR

Tiny Desk

José González

This soft-spoken Swedish singer left an imprint at the Tiny Desk that was gentle and long lasting.

Back To Top