The Artists’ Forum at Kalamazoo Valley Community College presents Suzanne Vega in concert with Gerry Leonard, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in Dale B. Lake Auditorium on the Texas Township Campus, 6767 W. O Ave., Kalamazoo, MI. Tickets are on sale now.
Biography Magazine called Vega “one of the most brilliant songwriters of her generation.” She emerged as a leading figure of the folk-music revival of the early 1980s when, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar, she sang what has been labeled contemporary folk or neo-folk songs of her own creation in Greenwich Village clubs. Since the 1985 release of her self-titled debut album, she has given sold-out concerts in many of the world’s best-known halls.
Bearing the stamp of a masterful storyteller who “observed the world with a clinically poetic eye,” Vega’s songs have always tended to focus on city life, ordinary people and real world subjects. Notably succinct and understated, often cerebral but also streetwise, her lyrics invite multiple interpretations. Vega’s work is immediately recognizable, as utterly distinct and thoughtful, and as creative and musical now, as it was when her voice was first heard on the radio over 20 years ago.
Vega’s style ushered in a new female, acoustic, folk-pop singer-songwriter movement that included the likes of Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and Indigo Girls. In 1997, Vega joined Sarah McLachlan on her Lilith Fair tour, which celebrated the female voice in rock and pop. She was one of the few artists invited back every year.
In 2007, Vega released” Beauty & Crime” on Blue Note Records, a deeply personal reflection of her native New York City in the wake of the loss of her brother Tim and the tragedy of 9/11. The record is not a sad one, per se, as her love for the city shines through as both its subject and its setting. In it, Vega mixes the past and present, the public with the private, and familiar sounds with the utterly new, just like the city itself. “Anniversary,” which concludes Beauty & Crime, is an understated evocation of that time in the fall of 2002, when New Yorkers first commemorated the Twin Towers tragedy and when Vega recalls her brother’s passing. It’s more inspiration than elegy, though: “Make time for all your possibilities,” Vega sings at the end in that beautiful, hushed voice. “They live on every street.” Beauty & Crime won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. In 2009 Vega performed in Prague to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Joining her on stage were Renee Fleming, Lou Reed and Joan Baez. In early 2010 she embarked on a 38 city tour of North America, starting with a performance at Lincoln Center’s Allen Room as part of their American Songbook Series, in support of her new record, “CLOSE-UP VOL. 1, LOVE SONGS.” The album was the first of a four-part acoustic series revisiting her extraordinary songbook by theme on her own label Amanuensis Productions. Since then she has released three more volumes, CLOSE-UP VOL. 2, PEOPLE & PLACES; CLOSE-UP VOL. 3, STATES OF BEING and the final installment, CLOSE-UP VOL. 4, SONGS OF FAMILY this past October. Vega also conducted a series of residencies and workshops at Universities and Music Schools on this tour, including stops at Harvard, University of California Santa Barbara and Banff in Canada.
In the summer of 2010 Vega appeared on The Lilith Fair Tour and returned to Europe for appearances at the Isle of Wight Festival as well as the Konzerthaus in Vienna. May 1, 2010 marked the 25th Anniversary of her eponymous debut album and Vega performed that record, in its entirety at a special concert at the City Winery in New York City.
Vega will be joined during the Kalamazoo concert by Leonard Gerry, a Dublin-born guitar player, songwriter, and producer, now based in New York. When not touring or recording, Gerry heads up his own project, Spooky Ghost.
As part of the New York scene, Gerry’s distinctive ambient style has led to his working with many great artists over the years. A recent highlight was his stint as music director/guitarist for David Bowie on the year-long “Reality” world tour and DVD. In addition to Bowie’s last two records, “Heathen” and “Reality,” and their subsequent tours, he has also recorded and toured with Laurie Anderson, Duncan Sheik, and Avril Lavigne.
As a producer, he has recently completed the new record “In the Pink” for Platinum artist Donna Lewis as well as Pamela Sue Mann’s “L’Oeuf.” He has also recently completed guitar work on Rufus Wainwright’s “Release the Stars” and Vega’s “Beauty and Crime.” In the world of music for film, Leonard’s guitar playing is featured on Peter Nashell’s soundtracks for “The Deep End” and “Bee Season.” He has also just completed an original score for a new independent movie called “32A.”
Under the name Spooky Ghost, Leonard has recorded two solo albums. The first recording, “Spooky Ghost,” was primarily an ambient guitar record, made in his New York apartment in 1998. His second, 2002’s “The Light Machine,” has been described by David Bowie as one of “the most beautiful and moving pieces of work I have possessed in a long time." Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $20 each and are available at the door and at the bookstores on both Kalamazoo Valley Community College campuses and online at ArtistsForumTickets.
For additional ticket information call Dave Posther at 269.488.4476.
The event is paid for in part by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and the Harold and Grace Upjohn Foundation.