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Regina Spektor at Radio City Music Hall october 15th, 2009: Classicist

At Radio City Music Hall last night , Regina Spektor’s opening act avant -pop band Jupiter One were smart as hell. The lead singer K Ishibashi mentioned the bands name before and after every song and that was precisely what he should have done. Jupiter One are really very good when they keep to the pop songs but whenever they jump off the deep end on an extended synth powered number they lost me a little.

Regina Spektor was superb from beginning to end last night. But walking home from Regina’s “best set ever” at the Beacon June 17th, 2009, I wondered how she could ever present such a funny, sweet, musically exciting performance night after night. And last night I got my answer: she can’t.

Regina was superb musically, her piano playing forceful and beautiful and the string band behind her for half the set as tight as a rock band. There were songs that took your breathe away: a “Human Of The Year” that blows the recorded version to pieces where Regina’s vocals were so strong and the sentiments so strange that all the eet’s and har-har-har’s and ohohohoh’s -the range of verbal tics Regina uses to hooks, are gone in the wonder of the lyrics. Even more so during the solo “Ink Stain” -a reference to the tattoos on holocaust survivors. It’s the song of the year (though not released yet) and though it has an odd problem (it is difficult to know what the correct reaction is) but Regina doesn’t play it for drama -she allows the emotions to work themselves out and it is just enormous. “Apres-Moi” includes a verse in Russian and it is the most important connect I have yet seen between who she is and what she sings. It’s where the verbal tics, the eerrs and eets of a person whose second language is English (if you ever see film of Nabakov -the premier English stylist of all time, he also veers into tics when he speaks).

No, the problem isn’t the performance and it isn’t the songs, it is partially an audience who mostly know the hits. A smatterring of applause for “Bopping For Apples” and a tsunimi of approval for “Samson”. And it is Regina Spektor seeming a little disconnected from the proceedings. It is thirty-seven minutes in before she really acknowledges the audience. She is serious, almost a classicist, and portrays emotions not musical, emotions to do with the relationship with her audience, through shy smiles and whispered thank you mostly. At one point she says playing Radio City is a dream come true. What was it last year on the True Colors tour when she played here? Does she have recurring dreams?

I wrote earlier that I had wondered how Regina could continue to project the emotions of the Beacon show and that she didn’t at Radio City. Regina did something else. She leaned on her lessons as a classical pianist to structure a set with the instilled vigor, intensity, professionalism and self-control of a great classicist. I left Radio City Music Hall firmly believing Spektor could do this for the rest of her life and that I would be there to watch her.

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