It was love at first sight. The second that Regina Spektor walked on to the Metropolis stage, the entire audience was head over heels. How someone so supremely talented could be so adorably shy and humble is just beyond me. Even after being in the limelight for almost two decades, Spektor is still amazed by her success. At one point, she even blurted out, “I can’t believe this is my job!” to thunderous applause. You don’t see such candidness in many other performers. Most of them are either overly confident, or at least faking that they are. Spektor is one of the best songwriters out there, yet she doesn’t think that she is. It gives her audience an intimate relationship unlike any other. Sunday night, I didn’t feel like I was standing in a packed crowd, but instead transported to a living room where I was listening to my friend Regina.
Think I’m exaggerating? I was not the only one who fell under her spell. After almost every song, there was always someone shouting, “I love you!” Ever the good sport, Spektor always blushed and gleefully replied with a sincere, “I love you too!” One woman went a little too far, and wouldn’t even let Spektor get a word in edge-wise. There was a small part of me that wanted to yell at her to shut the hell up and stop being so obnoxiously rude. We get it, you crave attention, can we hear some music now? If she was annoyed, Spektor never let it show. Besides, what’s a better way to zip someone’s lips than to launch into something as bone chilling as “Us” or as bubbly as “Fidelity”?
In a live setting, Spektor’s classically trained background is constantly waging a war with her quirky sensibilities. This is not a bad thing. This is what makes Spektor captivating. She is so unabashedly eccentric! I mean, this is the same songwriter who wrote of a dream involving a crispy Benjamin Franklin and peppered a chorus with an alarmingly accurate impression of a dolphin. Before she can become too precious, though, she’ll turn around and give you a vocal performance that will make you weak at the knees. She possesses a voice as gorgeous as Adele and or Beyonce, but her playful delivery and witty lyrics make her uniquely identifiable amongst other lovable weirdos. She may not be packing The Bell Center, but I’ve yet to meet an audience as invested in one singer as I did on Sunday night.
What’s most refreshing about seeing Regina Spektor live is that she makes no illusions of being perfect. Her connection is so strong with her fans that she doesn’t even need to be. They will finish any sentence for her. My favourite moment of the entire show was her encore rendition of “Samson,” which is probably the quintessential Regina Spektor tune. She forgot how to end it, struggling to find the key of the song. There was literally a minute of dead air! You may think I’m attacking poor Spektor, but what she did next was far more magical than any straight rendition of the song would have been. Realizing that she was suffering the world’s worst brain freeze, she turned towards the audience, and we all started singing with her. We all finished off the song together. Some fans even voiced words of encouragement. It was wonderful! She smiled brightly, thanked us, and said goodbye for the night.
Anyone else might have been criticized for forgetting their own song, but not Regina. Ever the consummate pro, she took a potentially uncomfortable moment and made it a highlight for everyone involved. We’re so used to seeing a show follow a rigid structure, it was actually nice to see a burst of spontaneity, and have a performer appear human. The whole show was very much like this. Hell, most great Regina Spektor songs are like this. They are never to be taken too seriously, but aren’t devoid of vulnerability either. The set drew heavily from her newer, more serious album Remember Us To Life, though she made sure to reward longtime fans of her patented vocal inflections with some older tunes. Yeah, I would have enjoyed even more of Soviet Kitsch, but the thrill of getting to hear “Sailor Song” and “Us” was more than enough.
So if you aren’t absolutely amazed by the sheer wonder that is Regina Spektor yet, then go see her live. You won’t only get two hours of high-quality singing, songwriting, and piano playing, but a friend for life.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Eric Brisson Eric Brisson Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson