Photo courtesy of Chaim Jaskoll under the Creative Commons license.
HUH?: This is the first of (hopefully) many concert reviews. I’m going to be trekking into the city and seeing bands and exploring venues in the hope of getting other Northwestern students to go out and experience some of the great opportunities Chicago offers – let’s face it, Chicago isindie country.
THE STORY: Two hours before the doors opened for the Regina Spektor show this past Sunday, the president of my dorm told me he had an extra ticket, so I jumped at the chance. We arrived about halfway through Only Son’s set. The dude plays guitar for Adam Green, the male half of the Moldy Peaches so he must be pretty cool, right?
The dude doesn’t sound anything like Adam Green, which is okay because more than one Adam Green would be too much. He played his acoustic guitar along to some nice canned instruments. I could easily see him being described as “wistful, whimsical electro pop,” which basically means the dude crooned nondescript yet quirky heartbreaks and longings.
I’ll give him this: he had stage presence. He told jokes about Jesus signing him to a record label and managed to invite people to friend him on MySpace in a way that almost didn’t make him sound lame. He’d probably be great to see live if you were into his type of music.
At 8:23, Regina Spektor took the stage. The audience went wild, but she didn’t even respond at first. She just started singing, her only accompaniment coming in the form of percussive fingertaps on the microphone, with a warm yellow spotlight striking her from stage right. Grinning and blushing, her intimate connection with the audience was powerful. People yelled out, not because they were heckling, but because they genuinely wanted to talk to her.
But as soon as the initial awe faded into a comfortable affection, a tall girl next to me expressed exactly what everyone in the entire venue was thinking. “Regina Spektor has huge boobs.” I mean, I’ve seen pictures of Regina Spektor on the Internet and album covers before. But I was simply not prepared. Later on in the show, she went to drink some water and she spilled some on her chest. I’m pretty sure a dozen indie boys swooned, and she knew it.
The first part of the show had most of the audience locked up in a heady daze. Regina is better live than on record – seeing her perform her complicated vocal affectations and scat-lines is impressive, and she plays with the music, changing lines and amping up the exciting parts. I was afraid she wouldn’t be able to do the same kind of precise vocal freakouts on stage that she does in the studio. I was wrong.
She switched instruments throughout, staying mostly on the piano (with drumstick on bench accompaniment), but switching to guitar for a whimsical song about someone next door fucking to one of her songs.
It’s hard to imagine the first part of the concert going better. People yelled out, “We love you!” and Regina said, “I love you too!” But then, three dudes I’ve never seen before came out of nowhere while Regina was talking to the audience about going on a potty break. They took up their respective instruments – a bass, a guitar, and the drums. The audience was a little queasy about this. These dudes looked lame. When the bass player comes on stage, the guy next to me exclaims, “IS THAT KID ROCK?” Everyone has to check. Thankfully, it’s not Kid Rock, it’s Brett (who some Northwestern students talked to after the show). The drummer (Rodney) is a big dude with spiky hair and a soulpatch – basically, he could easily be in Crazytown. The guitarist (Mike) was pretty inoffensive, he was just some dude with a vaguely indie haircut. I’m down with him.
This part of the show wasn’t quite as good. While some of the songs that were recorded with a backing band sound fine (“Fidelity”), other times Regina’s charming little quirks were blown away by the backing band. Not that she was ever overpowered — this girl has pipes like Robert Plant. Every now and then, the audience seemed about to dance, but everyone seemed puzzled by the addition of the live band. Even though Begin to Hope had some tracks with a full band, I think everyone was expecting them to look more like The Strokes than a late 90s alternative band. They were all very competent with their instruments. The just broke the magical intimacy that the audience had with Regina Spektor. We were jealous of the bandmates.
At 9:20, Regina and the band left the stage. A call for an encore was immediate – Regina was back on in less than two minutes. The last twenty minutes of the show were amazing. During the encore, everybody knows, a band is supposed to play the bangers – all killer, no filler. The audience sang along to Sampson, and Regina seemed almost surprised that we were enjoying her music so much. After she’d burned through her keyboard like The Killer one last time, it was time for everyone to go home. Regina grinned out to the audience and told us: “You’re a fucking beautiful crowd.” The audience cheered. Marriage proposals were shouted. People squealed.
The house lights came up, and everyone couldn’t stop talking about how precious she was.
And that was the show. Were you there? Want to talk about it? Think I’m wrong? (I’m not, I took notes.) Leave me a comment or talk to me on AIM (Tommy DZA).
NEXT SHOW TO BE REVIEWED:The Hold Steady @ the Metro on October 26th.