Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Concert Review: Regina Spektor Live at the State Theater
Last night, my friend Lisa and I walked from the Old Port (specifically, Five Guys) to the State Theater in Portland to see one of our favorite performers, Regina Spektor. Three months earlier, we had stood in line for Fiona Apple, and now we were back, with a few differences that included much lower temps and a line that had formed down High Street instead of Congress.
This was my second time seeing Regina, and Lisa's first. I was really excited for her, because I knew she was in for a dynamic performance. And, of course, I was excited to see her again, as she is one of my all time favorite singers.
I love people watching, and I was pleased to see that I didn't feel as old this time around as I did when my friend Matt B. and I saw her at the Orpheum in Boston back in 2009. At that time, I honestly felt like the bulk of the audience was in their 20s, and those of you who know me know that I am much older than that. This time, there were a lot of thirty and fortysomethings, and I was delighted to see several people who appeared to be in their 70s, including the couple seated next to me. There were also lots of girls wearing Regina Spektor shirts, one young woman who seemed to have done her hair like Regina, a few guys I would like to date, and just a generally diverse, enthusiastic crowd.
The opening act was wretched, easily one of the worst I have seen over the years of taking in many concerts. His stage name is Only Son, and during the intermission, my friend Steven (also in the audience) texted me that he is Regina's husband! I nearly wept. His lyrics were cringe-inducing, particularly a song about having a baby and wanting it to be a boy, and I was so bored during his whole set, clapping out of politeness, but thanking my lucky stars that I would soon be seeing a woman who would blow this dude clear out of the water on her worst day. But whom she had somehow chosen to marry.
When Regina and her band took the stage at 9:18, the crowd erupted into huge, passionate applause, which was sustained throughout the night. Portland crowds are always amazing, and you could tell that the State was filled with true blue Regina fans. This was also a polite crowd for the most part, although one lame contingent to our right started up some clapping during a song that did not call for it, and Regina looked at the audience skeptically and said "Really?," sort of calling them out but in a polite manner which just won me over even more.
Regina's latest album is What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, and so of course, I expected her to play the heck out of it, which she did. She performed ten of the album's eleven songs. Although I did not swoon over this album quite as much as her previous effort, 2009's amazing Far, I am now a bonafide fan, because each performance of What We Saw's songs was absolutely fantastic, and I cannot wait to explore this album more. And of course, lead single "All The Rowboats" has thrilled me since it was released back in February, and last night's performance was haunting and electrically charged. What a brilliant piece of music, in which she sings of rowboats in oil paintings which come to life after the museum closes. Throbbing, scary, energized: this song is where it's at.
Regina's music brings up a lot of emotions for me. My ex was a fan of hers before I ever was, and during the song "On The Radio," the tears were flowing down my sissy face. What a lovely, well-written song for the ages. I cried again during "Us," and I'm not afraid to admit it. Other highlights for me were "Blue Lips," from Far, which loses none of its dramatic intensity when performed live; the soaring and blissful "Better" from Begin To Hope; "Firewood" from the new CD, which is an exquisite ballad; and the piercing "Ballad of a Politician," also from the new CD, which just seems to sum up so much of life in this complicated century.
With every song, Regina's vocals soared. Her piano playing was remarkable, as was the way she turned her microphone into percussion. Unlike Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, she doesn't have a forthright, natural stage banter; she is far from combative, like the amazing Fiona Apple, who scolded the crowd; in fact, Regina seems genuinely shy! She was humbled and delighted by the crowd, and specifically said something about Maine being a great audience. Hopefully, this means that she'll be back.
I will end this review by saying that I was struck once again by what a talented lyricist this woman is. She crams so much of life into her songs. I'm thankful to have seen her in concert twice, and I will say that last night's performance at the State Theater in Portland, Maine, ranks as one of my favorite shows in a lifetime of great concerts.