It's hard to believe that Suzanne Vegas's "Luka," an infectious folk-rock song about the story of an abused little boy who tries to hide his plight from those around him, was a hit song twenty years ago. This recording (the first of two captured on Vega's Solitude Standing tour for the King Biscuit Flower Hour) shows a tender and still innocent Vega as she performed to a packed house at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre. She is in prime musical form on this recording, although she was clearly nervous, apparent from her awkward stage raps to the audience. She is boosted by a backing band that allows her to shine, both vocally and as a stage performer.
Vega opened the show a cappella, with "Tom's Diner," which would be transformed by bootleg DJs into a top Euro-dance track some years later. Other songs from her early period abound including "Straight Lines," "Small Blue Thing," "Cracking," and a wonderful medley of "Ironbound/Fancy Poultry." Vega does a near-perfect rendition of "Luka" before venturing off into more introspective and adventurous material such as "The Queen And The Solider," "Knight Moves," and "Calypso," which was inspired by the ancient Greek poet, Homer and his classic literary epic, The Odyssey.
Born to a mother who was a jazz guitarist, and a successful Hispanic novelist father, Vega grew up in New York City in the culturally rich district of Spanish Harlem. She attended the New York School of Performing Arts, the high school immortalized in the film, Fame, with the hope of becoming a dancer. But before she could fully explore that avenue, she decided to start playing her original folk story songs at the same Greenwich Village coffee houses that launched the careers of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
By the mid-1980s, she had hired a professional music management company and had a deal with A&M Records, who brought in Patti Smith's guitarist Lenny Kaye to co-produce. The first album in 1985 received strong reviews but stalled commercially. It would be her second album, Solitude Standing, and the hit single, "Luka," that would launch her career globally. After getting married to producer Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Paul McCartney), having children, and eventually divorcing, she returned to performing in 1998. She continues to record and tour to a very loyal cult following.