Live Review: Regina Spektor

Bootlegs, News - Published: 13 July 2012

The sweet American songstress stopped by Le Trianon to try and liven up a pretty rainy Parisian summer so far.

Regina_Spektor_Paris_Live_Review_Le_Trianon_2012Ne Me Quitter Pas could never be more appropriate than on this wet July evening. But, like the anti-folk Regina, embracing the beauty of Paris in the downpour, spirits are far from dampened in Le Trianon, which lies stacked to the rafters.

Opening is stilling; the disarming Ain’t No Cover, but this pure, vocals only offering is quintessential of Regina, as is the heartbeat patted out on the microphone. There are no guitars here – she studied classical piano until her late teens, and sits at a polished black grand piano for almost the entirety of her set; any brief sojourns from it leave her sweetly flustering around the stage.

It’s certainly hard not to be blown away. There’s always that flit of the whimsical, even packed in amongst Regina’s more serious lyrics. And amongst the more jokey are the sweeter, the sentimental stacked in alongside the stories of historical figures and political corruption. She leads us through a capricious maze of these tiny anecdotes and vignettes, sometimes breaking our heart completely only to stitch it back together with her witticisms. Shake It; Samson – there’s always a sense that she’s telling us a story but these are almost never autobiographical.

She’s admitted more than once in interviews that she forgets to write songs down, and revealed to The Telegraph that she has written so many songs, she now uses YouTube to remind herself of their existence. ‘It’s weird to look at yourself sing,’ she added, ‘like watching yourself chew.’ Audience members with their iPhones held aloft will certainly cheer that.

Jack Dishel, lead guitarist for Moldy Peaches, Regina’s other half, and her touring partner under his solo project Only Son for over two years, is called back onstage for the couple’s delicately soulful rendition, Call Them Brothers, which appears both on her fifth album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, which debuted in May, and his Searchlight.

Despite being a newlywed, there is no great evidence of love songs, nor has there ever been. Refreshingly, she has never been one for straightforward love stories: How and other tales of heartbreak are not purely tales of boy meets girl, and are employed with that wrenching soar of emotion, and effortlessly broad vocal range. It’s not always polished, but those slides into her New York accent – her home for over 20 years – only add to the charm, and the resonance of her voice overwhelms even the rich bowing of the cello.

Snatches too of a Russian accent are sometimes apparent – perhaps unsurprisingly as she lived in Moscow until the age of nine, and her cover of The Prayer Of Francois Villon – sung as Bulat Okudzhava’s original, in Russian, squashes all those consonants together beautifully.

Unexpected tempo changes and discordant key changes keep the audience on their toes; eccentricities now a given for Regina Spektor. Present too, is her less than conventional approach to vocals: Lip buzzes, glottal stops, trumpet sounds in The Party, touches of beatboxing that tumble into the middle of a ballad like Hotel Song, and impromptu-sounding sung notes in the place of lyrics that do nothing to damage meaning. Any sounds she can’t make herself – and there aren’t many – are conjured up from the ‘magical wires, keyboards and sounds’ behind her.

Her encores are played as she began – alone, and a trio of stripped down oldies taken from Fidelity see her out, as a spellbound audience struggle to regain their composure and give her the thundering send off she quite rightly deserves.