Daily doses of creativity

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Regina Spektor at Radio City Music Hall

"This is how it works
You're young until you're not
You love until you don't
You try until you can't
You laugh until you cry
You cry until you laugh
And everyone must breathe
Until their dying breath" 
- Regina Spektor

 




Regina Spektor's show at Radio City Music Hall last Saturday was unique in a number of ways. For one thing, she didn't use the ubiquitous screens to magnify her performance the way every act I've seen at venues of that size for the past ten years has. She also had no other singers to supplement her vocals. She didn't need them. Except for one song, she had no guitarist. She was accompanied by two violins, a viola, a cello, drums, and another keyboard in addition to the grand piano she played. But what made the show stand out the most for me, other than the songs and her performance of them, was its intimacy. I'd never before seen an artist have a phone call with her mother from the stage.







The song selection leaned heavily on last year's Remember Us to Life and the 2006 collection Begin to Hope. She opened with On the Radio, quoted above, and had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand from the first note. Four of the next five songs were from the new album before she launched into a touching cover of Leonard Cohen's Chelsea Hotel #2. All the new songs sounded as polished as if she had been playing them live for many years, except for one gaffe. After a false start she stopped to say she was going to pretend she wasn't performing at "Radio Fucking City" but was just playing a gig in a bar. As it was Purim, she talked about how she used to pass around bags of candy to the audience during previous shows on the holiday but couldn't do it in a venue of that size. Her sweetness was enough.


About that phone call: This was her first home-town show that her mother had missed, due to illness. It turns out Mrs. Spektor is public school music teacher and had caught something from the children who like her so much that they hug her. So the dutiful daughter called to check in on her mother whose Russian words echoed off the venue's scalloped walls. Regina translated her mother's words to her "little kitten." On cue, the 6,000 in the crowd yelled "Feel Better Mrs. Spektor!" like school children. Later, when a man in the crowd yelled, "You're amazing!" She answered, "It's a very kind and reassuring voice you have, sir." And it was. Without mentioning Trump and all the specific ugliness unleashed and marauding in this country, she spoke of resisting the forces of darkness with positive forces like music. The whole show was kind and reassuring. At times like these, that may be the most valuable gift anyone can give.

Here is her video for The Trapper and the Furrier, one of the most powerful songs from her new album:



The trapper and the furrier went walking through paradise
And all the animals lay clawless and toothless before them
And all the mothers stepped away from their babies
Leaving them open and easy to handle
The trapper and the furrier went walking through paradise
They took some for now and they got some for later
And they marveled at the pelts, not a bullet hole in them
And they filled up the cages with pets for their children

What a strange, strange world we live in
Where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven
What a strange, strange world we live in
Those who don't have lose, those who got get given
More, more, more, more

The owner and the manager went walking through paradise
And all the shelves were filled with awards and achievements
And on every corner, a power presentation
And on every floor, an army of workers
The owner and the manager went walking through paradise
And all their charts showed so much promise and progress
No sick days, no snow days, no unions, no taxes
And they wandered towards home, kings of their castles

What a strange, strange world we live in
Where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven
What a strange, strange world we live in
Those who don't have lose, those who got get given
More, more, more, more

The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise
And all the sick were around with fevers unbreaking
Crying and bleeding and coughing and shaking
And arms outstretched, prescription collecting
The lawyer and the pharmacist went walking through paradise
Pressed suits in a courtroom, aroma of chloroform
And they smiled at the judge, disposition so sunny
'Cause they didn't have the cure but sure needed the money

What a strange, strange world we live in
Where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven
What a strange, strange world we live in
Those who don't have lose, those who got get given
More, more, more, more

More, more, more, more
More, more, more, more
More, more, more, more
More, more, more, more