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Story and photos by Matt SchwenkeIt's been 20 years since Suzanne Vega's DNA-remixed, dance craze-inspiring "Tom's Diner" lit up the charts in numerous countries, and she opened her set at the Pabst Theatre with the original, a cappella version of that tune. And without the catchy electronica and support of instruments, the focus of the song was entirely on her voice and lyrics, which would later prove to be the most notable parts of the show.
Vega's fictional tale of Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner in the newly penned "Frank And Ava," from Beauty & Crime was emblematic of her creative talents, as was "(I'll Never Be) Your Maggie May," from the 2001 release Songs In Red And Gray, in which Vega creates a tale of Maggie May after her famous encounter in Rod Stewart's song. Other notables from the new album included the stirring "Angel's Doorway" and the adventurous "Zephyr & I," as both recount tales full of images and emotion.
While most of Vega's songs rely on her feathery command of voice and simple grace in lyrics, her catalog is peppered with all-around sonic gems like "Blood Makes Noise," "In Liverpool," and the full-band version of "Tom's Cabin," which yielded some of the most powerful moments of the night. But it was Vega's voice and lyrics that shined the brightest, as "Small Blue Thing," from her self-titled debut, left dreamy vocals over poetic verse.
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