Regina Spektor at the Pageant in St. Louis, Monday, November 12
(First, my colleagues in Kansas City wrote about their show here; really, it's irreverent and hysterical.)
The link up there somewhat sums up the adoration of the crowd toward Regina Spektor in St. Louis on Monday night -- a colleague here at the Pageant show dryly noted, "Women were triumphantly hugging in the street" after the show. Still, her Pageant show was an often-riveting concert that relied on songs instead of flashiness for its flair. (Save for a disco ball on the ground (!), the stage decorations were merely lights hanging from the ceiling that unobtrusively twinkled, like something IKEA might sell.)
Spektor was alone onstage as well (save for one encore song), and addressed the crowd sparingly (although she was clearly grateful for its enthusiasm.) Otherwise, it's easy to see why Spektor has enchanted so many people with her tunes. She makes listeners feel beautiful and graceful -- even if they're not. This is mainly because the arrangements (and execution) of her songs are so exquisite and delicate, but not withering or frail.
Along with classical music, jazz and other genres, she (perhaps subconsciously) draws on elements of musical theater/Broadway for her music, judging by the theatrical enunciation and jaunty arrangements of songs. ("Fidelity" in particular, with its "Hear-ar-ar-ar-t" trills, demonstrates this.) And the highlights were numerous: The vulnerable "Better" -- hear a good version of it here, from the KC show -- broke like glass, while the set-closing "Samson" was simply stunning.
"Samson," Washington DC, October 3, 2006
An obvious touchstone -- albeit a lazy one -- is that Spektor is the neo-Tori Amos. (If anything, Spektor is much more reminiscent of Cat Power, at least if her breathy vocal delivery and spare electric-guitar playing is any indication.) But whereas the Fairy Queen entrances the crowd with raw sexuality and sensuality and likes to shock by exploring taboos, Spektor is refreshingly wholesome -- and shocks with her innocence.
Even when she burps and makes guttural noises like a frat-dude on a Natty Lite bender -- and this happened often -- or chirps that "someone next door is fucking to one of my songs," she's cute and charming, like a tomboy who also happens to look adorable in a dress just after she's kicked some ass in softball.
But her vignettes about living in the city have no artifice -- and, more important, manage to be youthful and idealistic without being immature. Picture yourself stomping through puddles in New York City, like a jubilant 4-year-old -- only you're 23, a newly minted college graduate ready to take on the world, even if you're stuck in an entry-level day job. That's the sort of vibe Regina Spektor conveys -- eternal hope, and limitless amounts of pluck and spunk.
Nevertheless, though, I'd like to add the following caveat.
Hey, concert audiences in St. Louis, shut the fuck up.
No, really. For every person that was held rapt by the piano chanteuse's whimsy and quirks, there were five people talking loudly over the music -- which was a glorified piano recital, seeing as though it was Spektor, her grand piano and only the occasional guitar and drum part. LOUDLY. As in, the hum of chatter drowned out Regina during a gorgeous, spare cover of John Lennon's "Real Love," and during major portions of her set.
Here's a thought: If you want to go out and hang out and talk with your friends, go out to dinner. Go to a bar. Don't spend the money to go to a show and chit-chat about the PTA meeting or whatever, when there are people there for the music. This happens a lot in St. Louis shows, and not only is it rude, it's distracting and disrespectful.
-- Annie Zaleski