Classical Spektor

I saw the multi-talented maestra known as Regina Spektor last night in Milwaukee.

It’s been almost a year since I caught on to Spektor; I’ve loved “Fidelity” since the first time I heard it, but remained only lukewarm on the album. Still she was on my list of artists I wanted to see live.

… So a few weeks ago, I discovered she was appearing at The Rave -- on the same night that Mute Math (who was on my list of artists I’d like to see again) was scheduled to play there, but on a different stage. Tough choice, but I went with Spektor for the simple fact I had already seen Mute Math live, and I feared it might be tough to duplicate the excitement of the first time …

Where do I start!?

The girl is oh so talented. I liked her music before -- but now I fully appreciate it. I listened to the album all the way home last night and I've been listening to it all day in my car.

She’s got a smile that’s wide as the sea and a glee about her that’s so infectious. A personality that‘s so humble it almost seemed like she was embarrassed by the applause.

Sitting at her shiny black grand piano for most of the night she held us captive, showing off her classically-trained abilities as though she was center stage in a giant concert hall and other times playing and whaling like a lounge act.

With no band to back her, her songs were stripped of the hip hop beats and synths that fill her studio tracks. Instead it was just her. Weaving the beautiful, delicate piano melodies with her quirky, emotionally-charged lyrics. And playing like she didn’t care who was watching. One bar her voice was soaring, the next she was groaning or making some odd, innovative sound effect into her microphone.

(Note: I forgot to bring my little notebook with me for this one, so I'm basing the setlist all from memory ... The songs that I could remember are linked to clips of the live performances that best represent the performances Spektor pulled off last night ...)

Spektor started her 24-song set, standing alone on the darkened stage, serenading the mic with the a capella “Ain’t No Cover” (again, soaring). There was joyous applause and Spektor seated herself at her piano …

“It’s so good to be in Milwaukee!” she shouted. “Hey, do they call you Mil-wookies?” Funny!

And then she offered a small public service announcement. “So what’s up with you guys smoking indoors?” she asked. … “Could you do me a favor and not smoke during the show?”

Then she took off on the snappy “On The Radio.” I love that song. And it was then, as Regina cued the audience to clap, that a smile spread over my face and I knew: There was no other place I wanted to be on this night.

The show flowed as she spun out one song after another: “Sailor Song,” “The Flowers,” and the uber-entertaining “Baby Jesus” and “Music Box.” For “Poor Little Rich Boy” she played her piano with one hand and used the other hand to beat a chair with a drumstick. Amazing.

About midway through the gig, she strapped on a teal green electric guitar for “Bobbing For Apples,” and then kept on the guitar for the cool retrospective “That Time.” (another favorite!)

She rounded out the set with “Apres Moi,” “Better” (yet another favorite!), “Summer in the City,” and a song from the John Lennon songbook, “Real Love,” before thanking the crowd and leaving the stage ...

By that point, she had been playing for almost an hour, and there was no doubt in anyone's mind whether she was coming back -- because she had yet to touch her best songs.

And boy did she raise the bar.

To start the encore, in what had to be the highlight for everyone in the crowd, she brought out Only Son, who opened the show (and frankly, I didn't pay much attention to him because he was rather uninspiring ...). He beat boxed while she sang for a giddy rendition of “Hotel Song” that brought the house down. Lucky for you, and for me, someone has uploaded the actual performance for me to share here (though it really doesn't serve the justice of experiencing it live ... for a better quality video of the Chicago performance earlier this year go here. I'm telling you -- super cool!) ...

Then she brought out “Fidelity.” And added the “Field Below.”

Then! she showed Milwaukee some love again, pulling out a song, called “Dead Rat,” simply because it had a reference to Milwaukee. Again, I give you the actual performance ...

Finally, there was only one song left to play. “Samson,” which interestingly had drawn the most shout-out requests throughout the night. It proved to be every bit as beautiful live as it is on the album ...

As usual, I stayed around afterward for a quick meet and greet with Regina, got my CD signed, and I was on my way back home ...

Listening to the album. Fully appreciating what I had just experienced.

Related reads ...
Two good reviews here from The Marquette Tribune and The Badger Herald.

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