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Friday, Oct 23, 2020

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Where It's At
Suzanne Vega at Neumos - Jon McLaughlin at Paramount Theatre
by Richard Kennedy - SGN A&E Writer


It's been quite a few years since Suzanne Vega paid a visit to Seattle, and it's a welcomed return to such an intimate venue as Neumos. She has a career spanning over 20 years now since her huge 80's hit "Luka." Everyone knows that "Luka lives on the second floor" and it wasn't until the 90's, with her second hit "Tom's Diner", that mainstream would again be humming along to the songstress with the catchy notes of the synthesized smash single. Diehard fans have followed her in between, and beyond, through a series of very creative records and diverse music making.

You might find Vega's albums filed away in the folk section of any music store, but what's fantastic about this multi-Grammy nominated musician is that she has never fallen into the "vagina music" category. She is less "Lilith Fair" than Sarah MacLachlan, not as "folksy" as Joni Mitchell and more experimental in the vain of Leonard Cohen. Her self-titled debut garnered critical acclaim with the standout single, "Marlene On The Wall." Solitude Standing followed, pushing her into the mainstream and proving to record labels that there indeed was a market for lyrically driven, female singer-songwriters. She absolutely paved the way for artists like Tracy Chapman, Indigo Girls and Sinead O'Connor.

After the enormous success of "Tom's Diner," she created the brilliant 99.9F Degrees. As usual, the songwriting was rich and varied, but this time it was accompanied by clanging percussion and dissonant synth beats. It's somewhere between dance and folk, an incredibly original sound even to this day.

You can expect the Neumos performance to include much material from her newest outing Beauty and Crime, where New York City is the backdrop to a collection of songs with a short story-like narrative. As always, Vega pushes herself out of her comfort zone, singing in keys she has never put on record before, backed with guitar driven melodies and cool synth beats. I hope to hear some of the tracks from Nine Objects of Desire, where she explored themes of sex and intimacy, including the fantastic "Stockings", where she sings of a woman who cheats on her husband with another woman! Will she break out her two smash hits that she's sung to death? Hard to say, but if so they will probably be in the acoustic set, and it's guaranteed they'll have a reworked arrangement to keep them fresh. Doors open at 7, the show is at 8. Concert proceeds will be donated to Oxfam America, benefiting the people of Darfur. Get ticket information at

Artist Essentials: Any of her albums are a safe bet, but to really get a feel for how unique her styles can be, try listening to Suzanne Vega and 99.9F Degrees back to back. Check out her site to hear some of the new stuff!


Indiana-born Jon McLaughlin is the perfect opening act for Kelly Clarkson. Like Clarkson, this rising talent creates pop-rock with real talent to back it up. He began taking classical piano lessons at a very early age, and by the time he was a high school senior he discovered how to move his musical understanding towards a more "pop" sound. He studied music theory in addition to piano in college, all the while writing songs in his free time.

By 2004, he had the opportunity to audition for three major record labels. Island Records picked him up and released Indiana. The singer-songwriter follows in the footsteps of his influences, Billy Joel, Elton John and Ben Folds with a collection of ballads and piano-led rock. Themes range from love, convictions and familial bonds. His classical roots are rarely missing, giving the overall sound a much richer feel than that of say, James Blunt.

By the way, he's totally cute too! Add to that his small-town charm that brought about the title of his debut album. While working in California, the Midwesterner found himself away from his hometown for the first time in his life, which inspired the title. If you don't swoon to the blue-eyed hottie's looks, then you will to his earnest and heartfelt lyrics. The single "Human" says; "And after all, we're only human, always fighting what we're feeling, never healing. Is there any reason we stay instead of leaving?" Be sure to catch this extremely worthwhile talent before Kelly Clarkson takes the stage. Get ticket information at R. Kennedy

Artist Essentials: Visit McLaughlin's MySpace page for information and song samples, or check out his debut album Indiana.
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