On Friday night I donned a woolly hat and braved the cold, fingers wrapped tightly around my ticket for Regina Spektor’s sold out show at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo. A New Yorker via Moscow, Spektor is known for her electric mix of classical and popular music, as well as her unorthodox vocal techniques.
At a little past nine Regina walked into view looking like an exquisite Russian doll, with her trademark curls and red lips, to take her place centre stage behind the piano. And of course classically trained Spektor isn’t alone on this occasion she shares space with a drummer and a string quartet.
The first run of songs is from her new album ‘Far’, released this year to rave reviews. The album’s a sweet, upbeat affair, which she introduces us to with ‘Calculation’, ‘Eet’ and then ‘Folding Chairs’, quickly proving that her latest effort isn’t just a hit with the critics.
For someone that never really seems to have hit the mainstream in the UK, the intensity of the crowd is unparallel to any other gigs I’ve been to this year. During a retune of her piano Spektor breathily gushes, “Thank you so much for coming to see us” and then “I fucking love you guys”, words met by an instant chorus of “We love you Regina!” These declarations just got more and more erratic throughout the gig.
After ‘Blue Lips’ we were treated to two classics and sing along favourites, ‘On the Radio’ and ‘Sailor Song’. The latter being slightly ruined for me by a fellow audience member, unable to remember the words to all the song, intermittently shouting “Maryanne’s a bitch” and then when out of breath just, “Bitch”. Which was slightly disconcerting when he was just a few feet behind me.
Later she rises from her piano to treat us to a stripped down, slightly bizarre version of ‘Bobbing Apples’. It started with an almost antidote about eye colour (I think you had to be there), and ends with the repetition of the amazing lyrics,“someone next door’s fucking to one of my songs”, where she stretches her vocals as far as they’ll go. Next she picked up her guitar for my personal favourite, “That Time”. Considering the play count for that song on my Itunes is at over a hundred I was suitably impressed with it live.
As good as the songs from ‘Far’ are, the encore is an unmistakable highlight, where she plays, ‘Us’, ‘Samson’, ‘Hotel Song’ and ‘Better’. And although the playing of her most famous songs is certainly no shocker, she finishes with a full on country jig titled ‘Love you’re a Whore.’ Let it be said here that Regina Spektor was kooky long before Lady Gaga started wearing headbands made of human hair, and that I’m sure she will be long after.
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