Sunday, 1 June 2014

Regina Spektor – Paradiso, 31 July 2013

The definition of whimsical, per the English Oxford Dictionary:


1. Playfully quaint or fanciful, especially in an appealing and amusing way;

2. Acting or behaving in a capricious manner;

3. Regina Spektor.

Or at least that is what it will say when I’m in charge (and it’s only a matter of time before I am). Regina Spektor is a New York based singer-songwriter-pianist and is considered to be a part of the Lower-East Side “anti-folk” movement.

One of my personal philosophies in life is to never be involved with anything “anti”, but I have made an exception for anti-folk. Partly because I don’t really understand what it means, but mainly because it seems to be quite fun; with artists not taking themselves too seriously, while often at the same time being unbelievably talented.

And I think these are the exact things I was expecting to see from Regina Spekor. Undeniable talent, coupled with a playfully quaint performance that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

And this is what we got and a whole lot more.

The night kicked off with Only Son, a.k.a. Jack Dishel, a.k.a. lead-guitarist from the Moldy Peaches, a.k.a. husband of Regina Spektor. I, like a lot of other people, was introduced to the Moldy Peaches through the (fantastic) Juno soundtrack and while it is fair to say Kimya Dawson was the real ‘star’ of the band, I was still interested to see what their guitarist had to offer.

He put on a solid opening set, although I would not say he blew the crowd away. It was strong enough for me to pick up his album The Drop to the Top, which I have since listened to quite a lot and can recommend.

From the opening moments of Regina Spektor taking the stage, there was never any doubt about who is the star of their relationship, at least on this night.

The easiest thing to explain about Regina is her undeniable talent. Over the course of the night, she worked through 21 brilliantly written songs, predominantly from her last 3 albums and with a couple of rarities thrown in. Her voice and her piano playing are instantly recognizable and different from anything I have ever heard from another artist. I would have happily paid the price of admission just to hear her play these songs, and been satisfied I saw something special.

Aside from the big hits which were all played and as good as I had hoped for, the highlight would have been her version of the Russian folk song The Prayer of Francois Villon. Although it is in Russian it was one of the most beautiful songs I have heard coming from the Pradiso main stage.

Musical brilliance aside, what made the night something different and what I really remember as I write this several months later, is her personality. If her musical style is somewhat whimsical, her personality on stage comes across as a personification of this. Between most songs she entertained the crowd with stories of her life and her songs in an amusing, almost self depreciating way.

I walked away from the show with a really warm feeling towards not just her music, but also her personally. And this was more than just admiration or feeling that an artist seems like ‘a nice guy’, Regina has a rare talent of making you feel like you have been invited to something much more personal than what the reality of a live show is. I would put her up there with Julia Stone or John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats as the best I have seen of creating that personal connection with their audience while still delivering a great performance.

Call it whimsical, call it anti-folk or just call it overwhelming talent. Either way I will be back to see it again the next chance I get.


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