Last night, composer, Tony Award winner and musician Duncan Sheik opened up the show with a simple set. His set included himself with an acoustic/electric guitar/synthesizer and his drummer and piano player. He put on a fun show that had his many hits, and the stories behind them. His enthusiasm and love for performing and music is palpable as he sways to the music while on stage.
It was Sheik’s birthday. When he first stepped on stage, audience members shouted indiscriminately, “Happy Birthday!” and some even started to sing, much to Sheik’s big grin. Suzanne Vega got the last word in as a birthday cake with candles was brought on stage during their joint encore at the end of the night.
Sheik kicked off his set with “Half a Room,” which beautifully incorporated the xylophone, acoustic guitar, and piano. After his first song, he shared stories about the history of each song throughout the night. “Circling” is about when he toured in Europe with Suzanne Vega and he met a singer he butted heads with.
Sheik’s next story detailed his first trip to the White House in 1982 for a school trip, and then performed there pieces from Spring Awakening for the Americans with Disabilities and the Arts. Suzanne Vega joined Sheik unexpectedly to perform a song with him from the Tony Award-winning musical Spring Awakening. They sang, “Don’t Do Sadness” which got the crowd going. Such a great song!
Next Sheik sang his song “Avalanche,” which highlighted Sheik’s ability to hit high notes. He then diverged into what he called a “pop song” called “Photograph.” It sounded new wavey.
Sheik said his next song “Selling Out” was misinterpreted, and that allegations that he was commenting on artists was not true. It’s a groovy song. He then launched into “Distant Lovers,” which had a gorgeous electric guitar sound.
Sheiks’ last story described his time in Birmingham, England and how he envisioned himself as a Scottish criminal which led to him writing “Birmingham,” which is a funky song with a cool synthesizer.
“This is Not an Exit” was the last song played in the set from Sheiks’ new Broadway show American Psycho, and it was my favorite song of his set. He belted it out while emotionally accompanying himself on the piano. American Psycho comes to Broadway next year.
Suzanne Vega’s has great stage presence and displayed a wonderful sense of humor and charisma. With her acoustic guitar, she was joined on stage by an incredible electric guitarist for most of her set.
She kicked off the show with a new rendition of “Marlena on the Wall.” While singing “Marlena on the Wall” she wore a top hat in honor of Marlena Dietrich, and explained that the late actress wore top hats, which she honors in the song. “New York is a Woman” was next in the set. It’s about how a woman will break your heart and not care as she moves on to the next one.
Vega launched into “Ironbound.” She said it is a song considered to be about New York, but it’s really about New Jersey. It sounded U2esque.
Vega’s song “Jacob and the Angel” was absolutely gorgeous with its eerie sounds emanating from the electric guitar.
Not only is Duncan Sheik a Broadway composer, he is collaborating with Suzanne Vega on a new Broadway show about the famous writer Carson McCullers. McCullers wrote the famous book, “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.” McCullers dreamed of moving to NYC from the South and becomoming famous – which she did. multiple health problems from it. Vega sang about McCullers with her song, “New York is My Destination” while holding an unlit cigarette. The song had a cool jazzy piano riff.
Another song about McCullars is a song about her great love called “Song of Annemarie” which sounded ethereal. The last song about McCullars was “Harper Lee” about McCullars rivalry with other writers like Harper Lee The song is almost a rap about Harper Lee and is quite clever: “I’d like to kill more than that Mockingbird.”
Next Vega sang “Pretty in Pink,” which rocked the house. She then launched into “I Never Wear White” and joked, “I do wear white, like I did at my weddingzzz (laughter).” The lyrics are clever as she hissed, “I never wear white.” She closed her set with her super hit “My Name is Luka.”
The show ended with Vega and Sheik performing together. Sheik sang his super hit, “Barely Breathing” with the full band of electric guitar, drums, synthesizer and Vega joined in. Stunning!
Vega finished the show with her song “Tom’s Diner” with the full band as well. It was the highlight of the night!
If they come to your town run and buy tickets to see Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega!
Running Time: Two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
Duncan Sheik and Suzanne Vega performed on November 18 and 19, 2015 at The Barns at Wolf Trap – 1635 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future events at Wolf Trap, visit their calendar of performances and events.