Suzanne Vega’s new album, Days of Open Hand, her strongest yet, is her own distinctive take on something pop songwriters of greater and lesser (mostly lesser) gifts than hers have been playing with ever since Bob Dylan turned away from linear story telling in 1964. While Dylan and his heirs (from John Lennon and Lou Reed on down to hordes of recent indie songwriters) tapped the subconscious in a free flow of words snatched from the deeps of the brain, Vega’s approach is more like that of a 1920s surrealist painter. She depicts her dream-sights in deliberate, precisely crafted detail, all the more terrifying for their knifelike concreteness: a flightless bird dangling from a string, writhing to get free; a man calmly cutting pieces out of his body; children playing on church steps, “up to their knees in money.” The incongruity between these startling visions and Vega’s deceptively fragile voice makes for a startling and fruitful tension. This is no wimpy folksinger. Monday, 7:30 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State; 443-1130 or 559-1212.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nick Vacarro.