Suzanne Vega / Mike Doughty @ Òran Mór, 18 June
Since disbanding Soul Coughing in 2000, Mike Doughty has continued along a similar path: writing songs by turns wry and impassioned, and firmly rooted in a 90s post-grunge/indie-rock tradition. There have been some twists along the way – 2005’s Haughty Melodic, well-represented tonight, is a glossier affair than any of his old band's work – but Doughty is driven, above all, by his own distinctive arrangements and vocal style, which colours everything he does. Songs like Grey Ghost and 27 Jennifers, then, still have an endearing vitality when stripped back to Doughty’s unaccompanied acoustic guitar; a quality in keeping with his affable, energetic stage presence.
Suzanne Vega, by contrast, has an uncanny ability to inject seemingly simple, arpeggiated acoustic pieces with subtle-yet-striking melodic twists and chord progressions. Her early material remains the most powerful, as evinced by the captivating opener Marlene on the Wall. A trio of songs from recent project Carson McCullers Talks About Love feels bland by comparison, lacking the wit and poignancy of her best work. The early songs are clearly what the crowd want, and Vega focuses on them accordingly; but there’s no sense of begrudgingly trawling through past glories. She performs them, instead, with a clear-eyed intensity that ensures they feel as fresh and distinctive as ever. While her recent material feels less assured, then, Vega’s inimitable voice and charm remains.