Suzanne Vega is a lean machine these days. She and guitarist Gerry Leonard are the sole survivors of eight years of downsizing since her band last played Melbourne. That's unless you count Marlene, Luka, several queens, a soldier, the waitress at Tom's Diner and that crazy boy in the belfry.
Each had their turns in a set that read her audience like a book. She knows who we are now, after 30 years of touring and the five or six of social media that made her most recent album possible. She's comfortable enough with the relationship to pre-empt requests.
Songs from the new one, Tales From the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, were plentiful too, but the airy texture of her voice, strummed acoustic chords and diversions into rap and electronic weirdness remain familiar.
That voice, an almost chilling blend of whisper and bite, has lost none of its allure while her crisply articulated lyrics continue to reveal, from the intimate inner monologues of Small Blue Thing and Left of Centre to the rich allegories of The Queen and the Soldier and Jacob and the Angel.
Leonard was no less crucial a character in the big folk-art play. As Bowie's right hand on recent albums and Vega's for longer, he's a one-man orchestra with a taste for ethereal atmosphere and a capacity to get nasty when Blood Makes Noise demands it.