Throughout the year I’ve annoyed housemates with my Regina Spektor obsession. The richness of her music sustained me throughout my exams and provided the backing track that kept me buoyant- there are just so many details to enthral in lyric and music. Having only fantasised about the possibility of hearing her live I was so excited to hear that the UK would feature on her summer tour. long story short it turned out she’d be playing Glasgow, ie a place where I was not normally and a place that would be expensive to get to and furthermore a place from whence no trains or buses back to Newcastle left at an after-gig-type-time. I tell you this because my wonderful father, henceforth referred to as ‘#superdad’ upon his request, took me and my sister all the way there and back. He has therefore most reasonably requested to have a paragraph dedicated to his endeavour. This is that. Tah #superdad.
Another disclamatory prefatory note: I will refer to Regina rather than Spektor because I want to pretend that we’re best mates and although this isn’t true, please allow my to live the illusion for a little longer, and of course, Regina if you’re reading this the offer is still most certainly open to you and I am happy to reserve the vacancy of ‘my bessie marra’ for you until such time as you see fit to take up the position up.
Stephen Fry writes of Emma Thompson that her stage performance is so amazing because she makes the audience feel at once relaxed as she is comfortable on stage but edgy because her performance is so captivating. I’ve never had the privilege of seeing Emma Thompson live but I am writing this just after experience the amazingness of Regina Spektor live. Whilst exerting an awesome power through her truly incredible voice and her confident movement within the music, she betrays an endearing vulnerability. Her smile and thanks at the applause is genuine and wide-eyed and her responses to cries of ‘I LOVE YOU REGINA’ softly semi-whispered with a warm giggle. She was so beautifully human and real whilst singing with a seemingly out of this world, superhuman voice. All of the tickling experimentation, quirks and vocal gymnastics are so real, there is no sorcery. Her fingers strode over the piano so confidently, really playing with ranges, dynamics and expression as a game whilst floating her voice over, darting it under and penetrating it through the texture.
There was no sense that this was repetitive, manufactured or ‘standard’. Regina’s body moved with total rootedness in the music and she played with her voice throughout. Improvisation and variation were on the tip of the tongue ready to be deployed on the height of the moment. Yet once again, there was a sense that she had total control and the sense that this performance really was alive was not undermined by the total modesty and understatedness with which Regina presented herself. Although by this I mean her body language and manner of speaking her physical presentation was striking too. It was striking because once again, it was so real and human. It lacked pretension and spoke honesty. There was no hinge gluing her hair in place, just a clip holding some locks back, none of which had been seared against burning tongs to straighten or curl. She wore some of her iconic red lipstick but other than this smiling colour there was no layering on of concealers and foundations and her eyes were not weighed down and overshadowed by streaks and shadows of dark dust or globules of gloop. For me anyway this was a face that was going to convey sine truth. It was not disguised by the masks that society tries to suggest we all need and did not seem to conform to anyone else’s ideals.
There were no showy consume changes or imposed dance routines, there really was a beautiful focus on the music. Perhaps the many exuberant outfits celebrities adorn, the dramatic special effect entrances and exits arena tours guarantee and novelty choreographed dance routines are all to detract from a lack of musical skill and even command of the audience and cultivation of a relationship with them. Perhaps I’m not the first to think this. But whatever is the case, Regina needed none of that.
Each note was as strong as you could imagine from recordings plus more. Even if she had been slightly losing her voice as some of her almost whispered speech could have signified, there was no sign of this at all in her singing. Her use of the microphone was also immaculate. She neither relied upon it for volume nor was careless in her distance from it in either direction. Her adeptness in her craft was evident in each element. Whenever there was any flaw in the balance or amplification of just one part she would smoothly indicate during the song through whichever body part which was free to the relevant musician or technician. We only saw this as we were so close to the front and our eyes were totally fixed, minds fixated. In between songs she appeared to use her hands in describing the next mix to her crew in elegant, balletic motions which indeed looked like they were mixing some secret magic in the air that the audience were not yet privy to.
Indeed Regina did not just play the music but she played with it and hence with the audience too. She toyed with the rhythms of some introductions delightfully. Literally, imagine delight, and that’s what it was like. Each time she subdued the rapturous cheering of the crowd by drawing them in, teasing, creating a moment of curious uncertainty, further whetting the appetite of the audience. It was a great way to unsure there was nothing systematic about the performance of some of her biggest hits; they weren’t just being rolled out of the manufacturing process. The music was not only live but undoubtedly alive.
Tempos of a couple of rousing numbers were also raised slightly meaning the excited pumped throughout the assembled rushed even more tantalisingly. Even at shifted tempos Regina’s tongue twirled around stunning lyrics and rhythmic patterns I haven’t heard any other musician perform with ease, leaving no doubt that this music was truly hers.
And yes she sang Samson. And yes I cried. No, I did not wait for the music to begin, I just knew it was coming and I wept. I don’t know if there ever was such a salty, shiny, smiley face. There’s a stillness and an sense of poignancy which must be left unspoken with Samson. So I think I’ll leave it there. I don’t want to break it.
I kind of don’t know how to round off after that. Maybe Regina didn’t either, which is why it was the last song of the night. The tour is finished now, Glasgow was the penultimate night, but if she comes within a train’s ride away from you or me in the future, I would advise attendance. Whether you’re interested in amazing vocals, beautiful playing, provocative, magical and witty lyrics or simply want to know what on earth I could be talking about, then you’ll stir your stumps, rear your rump and get down there.
And Regi, if you’re reading, it was amazing and wonderful and fantabulous and you can still most definitely always be my friend 2k13 til 4eva.