By: Nick D'amore
Regina Spektor :: 10.14.09 :: Radio City Music Hall :: New York, NY
During the past five years since her major label debut, Regina Spektor has steadily become one of the most distinct and singular songwriting voices in music. Her songs, often described as quirky and strange, have a strength, complexity, and sophistication that often go unmentioned. At her sold-out Radio City Music Hall show, however, she brought those powerful songwriting qualities to the forefront. Within the stunning acoustics of the legendary hall, her incredible prowess as a singer, pianist, and songwriter was starkly evident. Spektor sang with unflinching intensity, and her songs were not just strange and endearing, but engaging, gripping, and spellbinding.
On rich display that night was Spektor's impressive vocal range and control. Much of what she does seems to come so naturally and effortlessly, but with two huge screens projecting her image to the sold-out crowd, the audience could see a woman doing some serious work. Dressed in a black ball gown and set against a dark, unadorned set, Spektor took the stage and was visibly overwhelmed for a few seconds by the stage she was on and the adoring crowd's raucous reception.
Backed by a string quartet and the expressive drumming of Mackenzie Smith, Spektor offered a good sampling of her career, with the majority of songs coming off her most recent release, Far (JamBase review). Immediately harnessing the initial flood of emotion, she and the band launched right into the album's bouncy opener "The Calculation," followed by the driving "Eet," and the rollicking "Folding Chair."
Throughout the night, Spektor delivered devastating performances of some of her greatest songs. "Ode to Divorce" from Spektor's 2004 major label debut, Soviet Kitsch, demonstrated what Spektor does effortlessly and expertly. The heavy mood and drama of the song is disarmed throughout with the repeated line, "So, won't you help a brother out?" This is a hallmark of Spektor's songwriting: creating visceral and emotional scenes within her work tempered by her humor or a jarring vocal delivery.
|Regina Spektor by Beny Shlevich|
Another highlight was "Blue Lips," one of the strongest songs from Far, and one of the most riveting of the show. Backed by her string quartet, Spektor was dynamic, her voice echoing throughout Radio City. Her singing became more intense and determined as the song reached its crescendo and then fell away as she sang a delicate final chorus to a hushed audience, "Blue lips, blue veins, blue, the color of our planet from far, far away." Hitting the final note on her piano, the crowd roared its approval.
Perhaps the greatest performance of the night was Spektor's stirring "Après Moi," off Begin to Hope, her 2006 breakthrough album. It featured her dramatic, classically trained piano playing and her wide range of inimitable vocalizations, beginning with the first line, "I – uh! – must go on standing/ You can't break that which isn't yours." With maximum intensity and power, she delivered lines of English, French and Russian in her own unmatched style.
There were also some pleasant surprises during the show, most notably the string quartet's rendition of the instrumental refrain to the Guns N' Roses epic "November Rain." This segued into "On the Radio," a crowd-pleasing tune from Begin To Hope, featuring the line, "On the radio, you'll hear 'November Rain'/ That solo's awful long, but it's a good refrain." Spektor also treated the crowd to some of her many unreleased gems, strapping on her guitar for "Bobbin' for Apples," which features the classic chorus, "Someone next door is fucking to one of my songs." Spektor saved her most beloved tracks for the encore, delighting the audience with fantastic versions of "Samson," "Us," "Fidelity," and "The Hotel Song."
On a night Spektor called "a dream," she focused her emotions and delivered a spirited, heartfelt, and endlessly entertaining set, proving herself one of modern music's most intriguing and engaging live performers.
Regina Spektor is on tour now; dates available here.
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