It’s been a shade over three years since Regina Spektor was last in Atlanta promoting her album Far, and needless to say, her Atlanta fan base has been clamoring loudly for a sprinkle of that sonic goodness that only she can deliver. They turned out in force to see their favorite piano-flavored singer-songwriter, easily selling out the 2600-seat Tabernacle. Isn’t it about time Ms. Spektor graduated to the Fox Theatre?
The evening of music started with Jack Dishel. Dishel is the lead guitarist for the Moldy Peaches and is currently touring under the moniker Only Son. The Regina faithful will know Dishel better as Spektor’s newly married husband. Going into the show, I hadn’t made this connection and was slightly surprised by the overly enthusiastic response the opener received. Not that his work didn’t merit it, but the response was a bit amplified from what you would normally see from a typical opening act. Dishel eschewed the band to deliver his voice unhindered. He had a interesting sound, seeming to harken back to Elliott Smith at times. He’d return to the stage later in the evening to give Regina an assist in their duet, “Call Them Brothers.”
As welcoming as the crowd was to Spektor’s beau, it was clear there was only one person they were here to see. They packed ever closer on the general admission floor and the random empty seats in the balcony magically filled in. Suddenly the talking ceased, cell phones fell silent, and a hush enveloped the audience as Regina set the mood of the evening with the a capella “Ain’t No Cover.” It wasn’t long before her backing band was ushered in to help her out with “The Calculation.”
The background of the stage created a magical effect. A rain of dangling paper descended from the rafters of the old church as a multicolored adventure of spotlights danced off their surface. It was a bit like the notes from Regina’s piano were constantly showering the stage.
The evening’s set list sampled across her rich catalog of albums, but leaned heavily on the new material from her latest release What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, as she nearly played the album cover-to-cover. She found her playful side in “Don’t Leave Me” before unearthing her guttural growl on “Open.” She shone the spotlight on her quiet brilliance in “Firewood.”
The thing that makes Regina fascinating is that she is a multifaceted artist. You turn the cube of her talent and you keep seeing new perspectives that the last song hadn’t yet hinted at. Some may try to stick her in the same box as piano-driven female artists like Tori Amos and Fiona Apple, yet its not a good fit. Regina Spektor is a unique voice that bleeds outside of these simple categories.
Watching her perform was seeing an artist highly focused on her craft. At times, it was almost like we were voyeurs witnessing this illicit affair she was having with her piano. It was a tad bit naughty, somewhat carnal, yet always completely reveling.
While Spektor’s rabid fan base gladly contributed in sing-a-longs and offered hardy applause after each number, they waited until the encore to become truly unhinged. She kicked things off by reached back to Soviet Kitch to serve up fan favorite “Us.” She wrapped the evening with a trio of tracks drawn from Begin to Hope. “Fidelity” got everyone playing vocal hopscotch following the ha-ha-heart. “Samson” brought the house down, as screams for the quiet love song had been echoing through the Tabernacle since the evening began, and the throngs of fans sang soft accompaniment to stunning affect. While the recorded version remains as one of the best crafted love songs in recent memory, it takes on a new dimension of intimacy live. If it doesn’t give you chills when she utters “you were my sweetest downfall,” I’m sorry, but there is something wrong with you.
What can you really say to sum up Regina? Seeing her play is always a pleasure. She is easily one of the most talented singer-songwriters performing in music today. Her set spanned close to two-hours so you can’t say she held back — anything. Let’s just hope we can entice her back to our fair city before another three years slip by.
Regina Spektor Tabernacle Atlanta Setlist : November 10, 2012
Ain’t No Cover
On the Radio
Small Town Moon
All the Rowboats
Call Them Brothers (w/ Only Son)
The Prayer of Francios Villon
Dance Anthem of the 80s
Don’t Leave Me (No Me Quitte Pas)
Ballad of a Politician
Regina Spektor has announced more dates to support her most recent album, What We Saw From the Cheap Seats. After a handful of dates beginning August 8 in Portland, Ore, Spektor will take about half a month off. But fear not, for she will be back touring around North America for a good chunk of the remainder of the year. She also has announced a slew of Australian and New Zealand dates to cap off the year.
After the quick tour of the Western U.S., Spektor will pick back up the tour in full on October 2 at the Lyric Theater in Baltimore, and the North American dates are scheduled to run through November 17 with a show at the Fillmore Miami. In between those dates, the singer-songwriter will visit cities including Portland, Maine; Montreal; Toronto; Cleveland; New York; St. Louis; Atlanta and Orlando.
After this stretch, she will take a couple weeks of rest before heading to the other side of the world for a show in Auckland, New Zealand on December 3. She will then play throughout Australia in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and a final show in Perth on December 19. All dates on the tour will be supported by Only Son.
What We Saw From the Cheap Seats was released May 29 of this year, and debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Many of the tracks on the album had been performed by Spektor in concert over the past ten years, though all were reworked and newly recorded for the album. The second single, “Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)” was a newly recorded version of the song “Ne me quitte pas,” which was included on the singer’s 2002 album, Songs. Production of the album was helmed by in-demand producer Mike Elizondo.
Many of the tracks on What We Saw From the Cheap Seats have already been heard by fans over the past ten years, but it probably wouldn’t be fair to call this album a b-side collection. Regina has completely reworked some of her older stuff, and those tunes which once existed as simple piano ditties have been given more complete arrangements for the studio treatment.
It may still be a kind of compilation though, rather than a true album experience. At least, if you are one who subscribes to the idea that albums are meant to be cohesive wholes. The songs don’t appear to have any kind of narrative flowing through them, and the mood of the record can shift in ways that make it seem disjointed. Regina Spektor outright refuses to talk about the specific meanings and inspirations behind her songs, and when she does answer these kinds of questions she tends to say something incomprehensible before giggling shyly and staring at her feet until the question goes away. We may never know.
The two leading singles for the album show a stark contrast. ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas)’ is quintessential Regina Spektor, an upbeat ode to ordinary people and to New York City. On the other hand, ‘All the Rowboats’ takes on a darker tone, throwing her typical gaiety aside in favor of a thick and muddy arrangement. It’s a very interesting sound, but it feels pretty alone on the record, and most of the album’s other 10 tracks are predictably bouncy and playful.
‘Ballad of a Politician’ is another exception, and probably the most intriguing use of Regina’s vocal style. It becomes theatrical, rather than simply quirky. Listeners who are sometimes turned off by her excessive singing style may find that they finally get it here, or if not, maybe when they hear the intentionally too-loud gasping sounds of ‘Open’.
Any backlash against Regina Spektor over the years can likely be attributed not just to the fact that she writes extremely simple and often puerile lyrics, and sings them in under-medicated ways, but that she seems to take them incredibly seriously. She can even come across as a little bit preachy and condescending when she talks about her art. In the songs I referenced above I think the case is particularly well made for the unrestrained and unorthodox side of her, as in some places it really does have quite a strong impact.
In other places, I would simply say that Regina Spektor might make a fantastic children’s entertainer. It’s the charm of silly vocal flairs and ridiculously whimsical lyrics that attract many people to Regina Spektor, after all.
While What We Saw From the Cheap Seats isn’t a b-side collection, it is a record that people will probably feel they have heard before. For diehard fans this makes sense, if they have watched live performances on YouTube where some of these songs have been available for many years. For others though, the sense of familiarity with the sound of this record will come from the fact that it is ultimately quite predictable, but no less enjoyable.
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Image Courtesy of Sire/Wea
It truly is a sad thing when the anthems of our youth fail us. For instance, Morrissey and Tori Amos were the two artist that defined my angst ridden teenage years. They were consummate friends, helping me through the muddled existence that was high school and beyond. While I’ve grown up and the glass isn’t quite so half empty anymore, I still expect Depeche Mode to put out quality like they did with Violator, but in holding these artists up to the mirror of themselves, they fail to reflect the best artists they can be. Thankfully, certain new artists have stepped up to fill the gaping void. Tori you can sit down now because Regina Spektor is here and can make the piano do those naughty things that you once made your signature. Regina’s latest album Far continues to fulfill the promise she introduced us to on 2006′s Begin to Hope.
Regina Spektor first arrived on the scene in 2002 with her indie release Songs and followed it up with 2004′s frolicking Soviet Kitch. With each step, Spektor seemed to become more comfortable with her ill-fitting musical skin. Begin to Hope was her official unveiling from underneath the blanket of the indie elite as songs like “Fidelity” and “Samson” weaved their way into the fabric of television shows like Grey’s Anatomy and garnered features on NPR. She was fresh, authentic and boldly unapologetic in her lyrics and her control at the piano bench was second to none.
Far seems to yield a softer, gentler possibly more accessible side of Regina. We’ve cast aside stories of overdosing in favor of folding chairs. Don’t mistake that for a knock on Regina. After all, her sharp edge is what makes her unique and fascinating. None of that bite or Russian might are missing. Rather some of the sharper edges have been mended to make her melodies have an extra pop. The album snares you in with the opening beat of “the Calculation.” Much like Begin to Hope’s intro “Fidelity,” “The Calculation” unlocks the coming whimsy and carefree attitude with which Regina plies as her art in the tracks to come.
At her core, Regina Spektor is a story teller. “Laughing With” is a thoughtful track dotting through an array of tragedies reflecting that no one ever laughs at God when their airplane starts to uncontrollably shake. She paints God as someone you’d share a joke with at a cocktail party. Living through these uncontrollable tragedies you pray for help without seeing the irony that this was his plan to begin with. “Genius Next Door” is another contemplative track whose lyrics are veiled in considerable obscurity, but I take it to be about a drowning in a local town. Her beautiful pianos lift her soft vocals up to create this fog that envelopes this fictional town. While there are a handful of tracks that poke at your brain, the sing-songy anthems that usually define a Regina album are front and center. “Folding Chair” is a poppy diddy that bounces along as her voice becomes just another instrument stuttering about. “Dance Anthem of the 80s” is another along this lighter vein about a meat market where single gals and gents watch each other eat while etching out an image of waking up beside one another the morning after. Casual sex at its best. Regina seems content to sit back and chronicle the existence unfolding all around her.
“Blue Lips” is one of the more addictive tracks here with a sticky chorus “blue lips / blue veins / the color of our planet from far, far away.” It plays with the religious themes like we see in “Laughing With” and “Human of the Year” to serve up her understated environmental message concerning the neglect of our planet. This blue is the color of our blood is a powerful image seeming to imply that regardless of our skin color or ideologies, we are all connected through this Earth we share.
In all, Far is a very impressive album from start to finish. There is very little filler here for the album to stumble upon. Regina continues to evolve as a brilliant song writer and doesn’t make the lyrics adapt to a song’s pacing. If she has to, she will shoehorn the words into a beat rather than sacrifice the meaning. Somehow she makes it all work. I believe we are witnessing the start of a fantastic musical career. I’m sure it won’t be without its occasional missteps, but if Spektor keeps taking chances with her music and challenging the boundaries of her art, we won’t be shaking our head ten years from now wondering what happened to this once great artist.
Album Release Date: July 28, 2009
With the release of “Far” on Sire Records, the Russian-born Regina Spektor dusts off her suitcases and prepares to hit the road. Fresh off a jaunt in Europe, Regina will be getting everything started in Saint Paul, MN on September 11. The Regina Spektor tour will run through the fall stopping in Portland on November 1.
“Far” was released June 23 which served as the follow-up to her 2006 hit “Begin to Hope.” “Far” leans on a bevy of producers to construct her multi-layered sound from David Kahne (Paul McCartney) to Mike Elizondo (Eminem). This effort comes on the heels of the “Laughing With” EP she released in early-June, featuring the unreleased track by the same name, “The Call” from the Chronicles of “Narnia: Prince Caspian” soundtrack and “Folding Chair” which would later find its way on “Far.”
Hopefully this tour won’t be plagued by symptoms of Regina’s past. She had to cancel, reschedule then cancel again a handful of dates in 2007 due to a nasty bout with vertigo that set in at her show at the Ryman in Nashville.
2009 Regina Spektor Tour Dates
17 – New York, NY – Beacon Theatre
11 – Saint Paul, MN – Myth
12 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre
15 – Ann Arbor, MI – Michigan Theater
16 – Toronto, Ontario – Sound Academy
17 – Montreal, Quebec – Metropolis
21 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
22 – Boston, MA – Orpheum Theatre
24 – Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
30 – Washington, DC – Dar Constitution Hall
6 – Atlanta, GA – The Tabernacle
14 – New York, NY – Radio City Music Hall
26 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues
28 – Los Angeles, CA – Greek Theatre
30 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
1 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater