Regina Spektor, who has been described as ‘kooky’ and ‘alternative’ but whom I can sum up most effectively as effortlessly charming, made her first appearance into my life in 2007 with the simple yet beautiful ‘Samson’. A piano ballad teeming with religious imagery and gut-wrenching chords, it is altogether a love song, whereby Spektor draws on the biblical tale of Samson and Delilah to illustrate the frustration of unrequited love felt by the speaker. After hearing this track, it is safe to say that I have never looked back.
American singer-songwriter born to a Russian family of musical prodigies, Regina Spektor has been hailed as the noughties’ answer to Tori Amos. Whilst her acclaim, particularly on this side of the Atlantic, has prevailed in the latter years of the decade, Spektor released her first album 11:11 in 2001 and it is in her earlier music that her appreciation can mostly be found.
This was reflected well in her audience at the Birmingham O2 Academy: a crowd in their early 20s, rather than the teenagers one might see at a Florence gig, demonstrated that they had grown up, developed, and spent a peak point of their lives with Regina Spektor and her bizarre yet insightful verse.
However, rule of thumb is that a tour’s aim is essentially to promote new material. Spektor released the album Far in June 2009, and the first half of her set in Birmingham, after support from the promising Jenny Owen Youngs, was made up almost entirely of tracks from her latest offering. Admittedly, this diminished cheer from the crowd somewhat, at least in comparison to the exaltation we had displayed when Spektor first emerged onstage. But her nimble fingers caressed the piano keys so gracefully, and in such perfect conjunction with her clear, unpretentious voice, that she made it look so easy: we could only stop and stare in awe. It is live performances like those she accomplished with Calculation and Eet that ultimately “make” songs, that raise an artist’s profile. One could see the silence of the audience as a respectful appreciation of Spektor’s exclusive talent.
And exclusive she is. Not only is she a singer and pianist to an outstanding level, Regina Spektor cut a Joan Baez figure with her guitar on tracks such as That Time and Bobbin’ For Apples, whilst Poor Little Rich Boy exposed the diversity of her musicality as she drummed with one hand, played the piano riff with another and sang what is undoubtedly one of her classics fondly, smiling all the way. Her exceptional rhythmic timing comes so naturally that it can only be a result of musical blood. This girl was born to perform. Her rapport with the audience, too, was mesmerising: between almost every track, Spektor praised and thanked us, and it is partly this enthusiasm that makes her so well-received and well-respected.
We were patient for the chefs d’oeuvres, and were finally rewarded at the end, with an encore of Samson, Us, Fidelity and Hotel Song. These only confirmed Spektor’s status as an excellent live performer and reminded us that she is not only musically virtuoso, but moreover a skilled songwriter. And with lyrics like, “if you never say your name out loud to anyone, they can never ever call you by it”, an inspirational mantra if ever there was one, Regina Spektor’s profile can be raised to that of a poet.