I took my son to see Regina Spektor in concert, or I probably should say, he took me. He’s the fan. He’s the one who knows her work inside out and loves it. The fact that I recognised nearly every song she did is testament to his listening habits rather than mine, but I can say, it was a fine show. In fact, it was quite an interesting evening’s music.
For a start, the support act was brilliant. They go by the name Jupiter One and they are in fact Spektor’s backing band (at least on this tour). They consist of a drummer, a cellist, and a guy who switched between keyboards and guitar but who mainly played violin. In other words, quite an unconventional instrumentation.
But boy, were they they great. The show began with just the violinist playing a couple of tracks solo, using loops and other effects to accompany himself. Not only could he play all the instruments (violin, guitar, keyboard), he had a fantastic singing voice: yes, one of those annoyingly talented people who I could sit and watch all night. He was then joined by the rest of the band (or that part of it that is on this tour) and they did a full set of their own music. I would’ve bought their album, but the merchandise stand sold had out.
Then came Regina. The cavernous Adelaide Entertainment Centre (awful venue) was full and the crowd duly erupted. Not that they were a particularly demonstrative audience, nor easy to describe. Nor does her performing lend itself to people going wild, though by the end, people were up and dancing. The single largest grouping, I’d guess, were teenage girls, though there were plenty of teenage boys too, and a perhaps surprising number of unaccompanied adults there as well. Spektor obviously draws from a wide demographic.
I guess you’d say she is somewhat in the Tori Amos/Kate Bush corner of the music world, a singer-songwriter who accompanies herself on piano (occasionally guitar) and whose songs are notable for their left-field lyrics and strong melodies. She has definite Broadway musical edge to what she does and it is no surprise she is writing a musical version of Sleeping Beauty (due off-Broadway in the autumn of 2011, then if successful progressing to Broadway the year after that). But there is also a traditional Russian influence in there too, a kind of folk vibe that comes through in a number of tracks.
As a performer, she is low key, an ambience helped by the fact that the backing band eschews the usual pyrotechnics of guitar-based performance (as mentioned above). She spoke a small amount between songs, but engaged nicely with the audience and had obviously taken the trouble to learn something of the city she was in, managing a number of audience-flattering references that went down a treat.
There were a couple of interesting moments. At one point a guy yelled out, “Love you Regina!” but pronounced her name Re-jyna. She said thank you, but told him it is pronounced Re-geena. “The other way sounds too naughty,” she said, and proceeded to make the obvious Regina/Vagina rhyme.
That was kind of cutesy funny and I guess something she has to deal with a lot. More telling was when someone wolf-whistled. Hardly a surprising thing to happen at a concert, but she was unimpressed. She smiled sweetly but said, “Come on, now.” Then she related a conversation she had had with her band. “We were discussing if it was possible for them to sexually harass me,” she said. “We decided it was.” I think the wolf-whistler got the message.
As it happened, her label had a few of us backstage for the so-called “meet and greet” after the show and apart from being the highlight of my son’s life…well, that’ll do really. I felt genuinely sorry for her having to go through this procedure with a handful of strangers, something she no doubt does in every town, but she was utterly charming, generous with her time and nicely down to earth. She signed autographs and had her photo taken with everyone who wanted one and then took her leave.
Anyway, the woman is an amazing talent, a great player with an extremely strong and affecting voice. I’m personally not a huge fan of her songs, though I can see the attraction. For me, there is just too much of the silly vocalisations and musical comedy stylings. It will be interesting to see where she takes her music in the future. Still, it was a thoroughly enjoyable gig and I’d happily go along again.