Regina Spektor @ The Greek Theatre 10/28/09
Regina Spektor (Photo via Regina Spektor's website)
Regina Spektor emerged onto the stage of the Greek Theatre Wednesday night like a child at her first "grown up" party. Her flame-red hair hung in loose ringlets about her face, she wore a poofy white dress adorned with a cartoonish black bow, and her bright red lips suggested a slightly off-kilter leaning towards the naughty. When she spoke she seemed baffled and awed that so many people would don scarves and hats and sweaters to sit out under the stars on such a chilly October night just to see her. "Thank you," she repeated, when shouts of "I love you Regina!" or "Marry me!" or "Play 'Samson'!" gave her room to get a word in edgewise. But when she sang...
Forget the little girl in the dress with the cherubic lips and the chipmunk voice. Spektor filled the Greek with her powerful and chameleon-like voice, mesmerizing the audience with her ability to use her voice like a character; she was a throaty Russian politico, a lonely young woman, a wise counselor, or a saucy square-dance caller and more throughout the show. Touring in support of her recent release Far, Spektor pleased those fans who wanted to hear the Guns 'n' Roses-inspired "On the Radio" and other comfortable hits from her breakthrough album Begin to Hope, the newer material like "Laughing With," that can be found on indie stations like KCRW, tunes from her archives made popular from use in films like (500) Days of Summer, and the live performance staples that showcase her irreverent and snarkier side.
The comparisons between songstress Spektor and those to whom she owes her role in contemporary music are inevitable. Indeed, if you squint your eyes just a little and roll your memory back to the mid-90s--if you're old enough, natch--you may easily convince yourself the redhead at the piano is Tori Amos. But where Amos evokes a journey to the haunted and fairy-speckled woods of inner turmoil, Spektor provokes a different sensibility. Part lighthearted, part simpatico, what Spektor does with her quirky and thoughtful lyrics mixed with evocative layers of musical arrangement puts her in a class of her own. I mean, for crying out loud, during one song the woman played a wooden chair, using its seat and back for percussion.
For every moment of heartfelt introspection there was a moment of levity. Adults in the audience who brought their children got their karmic retribution instantly, as the little ones who managed to stay awake as the night waned may have peppered their conversation on the ride home with queries like "Mommy, what's a whore?" thanks to Spektor's encore closer, the Country-Western "Love, You're A Whore," or "Daddy, what does 'fucking' mean?" thanks to the much-repeated line from "Bobbing for Apples," that finds Spektor marveling that "someone next door's fucking to one of my songs."
But no one is meant to take Spektor's musings too seriously--after all, she tells us so following her musical treatise "Silly Eye Color Generalizations," that she's just making up a bunch of goofy stereotypes based on eye colors--what does she know? And yet, it's easy to take her words as gospel--life lessons hard-learned and able to mend a broken heart, consider a perspective, or proceed with caution. The poetry and mystery of her lyrics invite engagement on both a sensory and intellectual level, and this is only made more evident when you see her live, as the sides of your mind, and all of your heart is torn between basking in her artistry and wrapping your brain around the puzzle of her words.
After earning a standing ovation for her initial set, Spektor emerged once again in that cold night (a night where she chirped a wish that "our love is enough to keep us all warm") to satisfy our craving for the familiar "Samson," "Us," "Fidelity," and "Hotel Song," then finally sending us back out into the world with the aforementioned hoedown ditty "Love, You're a Whore," which found many a pocket of fans on their feet and do-si-do-ing. What a perfect way to end the night, and to remember that the next time Spektor and her songbook pull into town, it's best to do-si-do straight to the box office to secure a seat.
"Ode to Divorce"
"One More Time with Feeling"
"On the Radio"
"Dance Anthem of the '80s"
"Silly Eye Color Generalizations"
"Bobbing for Apples"
"Poor Little Rich Boy"
"Human of the Year"
"Man of a Thousand Faces"
"Love, You're a Whore"