Suzanne Vega has only had a handful
of solo albums in a twenty-year career, but they've all been solid
ones. She came more into the limelight with Solitude Standing and
its hits "Luka" and "Tom's Diner," but if those
are all the Vega songs that you know, you've missed out on treats
like those found on Nine Objects of Desire and 99.9 F.
Vega's performance at the 2004 Montreux Jazz Festival provides a
sampler of her work from beginning to end, in a venue with a fairly
intimate feel. If you're not familiar with her work, it's a good way
to get to know her music overall, and if you're already a fan of
Suzanne Vega, this concert will be of interest in its blending of
older and newer material, along with presenting her performance of
some songs that are not from her own albums.
Suzanne Vega has a unique style, one
that's not easily described. I tend to think of her in the same group
as "folk rock" artists, but there's an edge to many of her
songs that makes her music have its own distinctive character. In
this concert, the focus is on her vocals and guitar, with the backing
band supporting but not overpowering her. In her performance at
Montreux, she handles all the songs very
well, proving that her voice is as good as ever (or better). "Tom's
Diner" doesn't come out as well as it could have (I think it's a
song that's simply not well suited to live performance), but I was
impressed by her powerful performance of one of my favorites,
"Solitude Standing," along with excellent renditions of
other great songs like "99.9 F," which she uses to open the
concert, "Caramel," and "Calypso."
The performance runs an hour and 17
minutes, and is focused primarily on the music, with a total of
eighteen songs (sixteen in the main program and two encores) in the
main feature. Vega does speak to the audience a bit, giving some
interesting background to many of the songs while never rambling on
too much; she seems relaxed and to be enjoying herself. The concert
footage is edited well, with a variety of shots and camera angle
keeping the visuals interesting.
The song list is:
Suzanne Vega: Live at Montreux
2004 has been given a really excellent transfer: it's anamorphic
widescreen, at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Despite the challenging
lighting conditions, the image is clean and sharp; we get some grain
in the whole-stage shots, but not that much, and the close-ups are
extremely crisp and clear. Colors are hard to judge, given the use of
colored lights on the set, but they look good overall.
The audio choices here are likewise
excellent. The default is a PCM (non-lossy) stereo mix that offers a
rich, full sound experience. I'd actually say that it's better than
the second choice, a decent but not outstanding Dolby 5.1 mix. The
best option, though, is the third one, an excellent DTS 5.1 track.
The DTS offers good surround sound, a lovely rich texture, and
crisper vocals than the other two options.
Three bonus songs are included,
running a total of twelve minutes. These three songs ("Small
Blue Thing," "Room off the Street," and "Knight
Moves") come from a different concert, the 2000 Montreux
festival at which she opened for another band. The video for these
songs is a lower-quality 1.33:1 image with a fair amount of grain,
but I'm pleased to report that the same three audio options are
available, so you can listen to the bonus songs in their DTS glory.
Suzanne Vega: Live at Montreux
2004 is a solid concert DVD that will appeal to both long-time
fans of the singer, and those who have heard a few songs and want to
get to know her music more. The excellent anamorphic widescreen
transfer, coupled with a DTS soundtrack, makes for an overall very
solid package. Recommended.