Gig Reviews

Regina Spektor, Palais Theatre – 30th April, 2010

You can’t deny Regina Spektor’s talent; her vocals are beautiful and soulful with fantastic range, she plays piano masterfully without a flaw or glitch, and her band, too, is tightly rehearsed and suitably talented. Their classical training is charmingly confused with indie-pop sensibility, almost as much as Spektor’s.

As a musician, she is everything you’d want – an utterly believable vocalist with classical piano praxis in tow. As an artist, a songwriter and a performer the poor girl is still stuck in the awkward adolescent stage, simultaneously throwing several personalities against a wall to see what sticks. If she wants to be Ella Fitzgerald contempo-incarnate, the female language-fuck Tom Waits or just plain old Fiona Apple, she has not yet decided.

This is the first seated show I’ve been to since turning eighteen. I don’t feel comfortable without being subordinate to a stage, with the scent of beer and Lynx deodorant permeating the air. Nonetheless, the Palais reminds me of the Astor Theater with its old-world charm and high-societal grandeur.

The crowd is what you’d want at such a show. The girls are all too fashionable for their own good and the guys sport the ubiquitous curly fringe and tight jeans. Ladies and gentlemen, the scene has been made.

Considering the fact that the opening band is also Spektor’s backing band and use all the same equipment, she takes an inordinately long time to come on stage. Spektor and co. finally reveal themselves to their uproariously adoring crowd and launch into the bouncy ‘The Calculation’. The setlist is rich and varied, ranging from fan favourites like ‘Ode to Divorce’ and ‘Après Moi’ to the cringe-inducing ‘Machine’.

I hate to repeat myself but Spektor and the band really do play very well. Even Spektor’s guitar work is perfectly apt and understated. She takes time off from instrumentation for ‘Silly Eye-Colour Generalizations’, which she sings a capella, silver throated, with her tongue wedged safely in cheek.

The crowd laughs at the jokey little tidbits and plays-on-words as if hearing them for the first time. It’s clear from listening to her albums that Spektor has a serious fetish for onomatopoeia. This seems to be exacerbated by live performance, with those Brenda Lee-‘sexy hiccups’ all ablaze, though often the quirky mannerisms stray into the nauseating and downright annoying.

Still, in these affectations Spektor shows the personality she damn near refuses to show in between songs. The question boils down to exactly what personality that is. It’s not a case of creative schizophrenia; we would’ve caught onto that by now. It’s a case of indecisiveness, of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.

It’s easy to be romantic about Paris and New York but the world Spektor creates is one that’s hard not to fall for – it’s equal parts Philip Roth, Tom Waits, Woody Allen and Joni Mitchell. It’s a world of loveless sex you can muse about later and where divorce is almost as frivolous as marriage, though Spektor’s looking glass is subject to repetitive change. Is this a girl still high on the ether of adolescence or a girl getting her personality crisis while it’s hot? Regardless, she seems to be adamant in staying rooted in her idiosyncrasies. And why not? I did say her audience is uproariously adoring.

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