Regina Spektor at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver, Nov 2 2009
– review by Jennifer Laidlaw
After listening to Regina Spektor for over 90 minutes, it is hard to recall there even being an opening band. Not because they weren’t good, but because the night absolutely belonged to her in a really big way.
I busted my ass to get there in time to see the opening act – Jupiter One – and managed to catch their last song-and-a-half; hardly enough to judge its style. But, drummer Dave Heilman was a maniac, with arms and elbows flying through the air, and lead singer K Ishibashi had enough energy for the whole band. If the venue had of been anywhere but the Orpheum people would have been standing. At the end of the night they were handing out free download cards, wisely giving the crowd another chance to check them out when they weren’t so fixated on waiting for Regina Spektor.
The 5’2″ Russian-born American singer and pianist skipped out with a wave, hopped onto her enormous grand piano and, with her band members, drummer McKenzie Smith, cellist Daniel Cho and Jupiter One’s Ishibashi on violin, promptly jumped into the bouncy new single “Calculation” off her 2009 album Far.
From the second Regina Spektor hit her first note to the final moment of the encore I had goosebumps. I knew she would be good, but this was epic. There wasn’t a crack or cranny in the theatre that wasn’t filled with her sound, from her childish whispers and popping vocal sound effects to her operatic hugeness.
The audience clearly adored her, hooting, giggling and calling out her name and she gave them what they were there for – energy, personality and magical-sounding songs about cocaine, over-dosing and divorce. There was little chat in between songs, but there was no need. Each one of her songs is an engaging conversation.
During a brief technical interruption to fix some intermittent, ear-cracking feedback, one enthusiastic fan called out to the singer, as she sat at her piano, feet waving back and forth. “Hey Regina, want to come over for dinner?” The audience cracked up as Spektor squirmed on her piano bench, like a friend not wanting to be rude by saying no. Another fan followed up with an invitation for breakfast as she dove right into her next song. The comedic timing of the whole spontaneous moment had the audience roaring in their seats.
Spektor’s music is made for her and her piano, but the second the violin, cello and drums kick in, it might as well be a bloody symphony. On “Ode to Divorce” it took me a few seconds to realize the siren was coming from the violin and not just an effect.
During “Eet”, I had some bloke belting out the song in a really bad way, right in my ear. It was really unfortunate that he didn’t come with a volume option because I am sure no one around him paid to hear that.
The first distinctive notes of “On the Radio”, the song that probably introduced a good many people to her music, were met with huge applause. Spektor then mixed it up, switching to keyboard, while her drummer pulled out the electric kit for the funky, plugged-in “Dance Anthem of the 80s”. With her tights, a-line skirt, oversized flowing shirt and big curly hair, Regina Spektor looked a little like Elaine from Seinfeld, but with rhythm.
One of the evening’s highlights was a cheeky a cappella song about how to determine boys by the colour of their eyes – with something like “golden eyes are sticky like honey… and blue eyes just can’t be trusted and she knows this because her eyes are blue.” It was cute, witty and just plain funny.
A solo moment with a teal electric guitar found Spektor singing about the proud moment when she realized the couple next door was fucking to one her songs. Her emphasis on “my song, MY song, MY SONG, MINE” was hysterical and pretty much summed up the surreal feeling that would happen in that moment.
She performed “Poor Little Rich Boy” sitting at the piano, one hand on the keys, the other whacking a drumstick against an old chair so hard that I could see pieces of the chair flying off from the fourteenth row.
For her encore, Spektor rounded up the night with “Samson”, “Us”, “Fidelity”, “Hotel Song” and a little country ditty.
When Regina Spektor finally left the stage and the lights came up it was like being forced to wake from a really great dream.