Suzanne Vega found a way to make her local debut free of the hype that's attended her emergence from New York's folk clubs. Instead of making a Big Splash with full band, the heralded artiste played alone on Saturday at L.A.'s folk haven, the back room at McCabe's Guitar Shop. Talk about hype-proof locations: Even Linda Ronstadt's presence didn't cause a ripple.
Vega's music recalls Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and other art-folk stalwarts, but she's asserting her own identity. Her spare imagery evokes the intuitive strokes of Japanese painting. Her romantic chronicles and character sketches are sympathetic and hard-bitten, while the more introspective studies have a disquieting, dreamlike quality.
The solo format enhanced the songs' sense of isolation, and her singing was strong and straightforward, leaving the emphasis on the lyrics. Vega's next stop will be at UCLA's Ackerman Union patio for a noon concert on Tuesday.