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What We Saw From the Cheap Seats

Regina Spektor's pre-Election Day transcendence
Abby Johnston, 1:11pm, Wed. Nov. 7, 2012
Applause erupted from all levels of the Bass Concert Hall on Monday when NYC-via-Moscow piano virtuoso Regina Spektor took the stage. So much so, that it took her a while to find a suitable point to jump into a cappella opener “Ain’t No Cover.” Finally nudging into an opening, she launched the first of many displays of vocal perfection.

Spektor's more than just a singer-songwriter at the piano bench. Her performances are well-conceived aural treats: electrifying, jazz-lilted vox, classically-tinged pop, and mouth-produced horns and percussion all rolled into – I have to say it – the most adorable package.

Naturally, her charm wasn’t lost on the crowd. They screamed a non-stop stream of adoration between songs, which the singer acknowledged by mouthing “thank you.” A forceful demand of “MARRY MY BROTHER” sent the songstress into a giggle fit.

Spektor’s latest, What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, focused the two-hour show, and deservedly so. She offered a diverse but telling sample of her May release, less of the sugary goodness heard on 2009’s Far in favor of a return to the grit and challenge of albums like 2002's Songs and Soviet Kitsch two years later.

New album opener “Small Town Moon” appeared early in the set, a lovely ballad that paired beautifully with Soviet Kitsch tear-jerker “Ode to Divorce.” Refurbished from older releases onto the latest, “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” popped along in syncopated piano time, aided live by an extra set of keys, cello, and drums.

Spektor even included “The Prayer of Francois Villon (Moltiva)” by fellow Russian composer Bulat Okudzhava, one of Spektor’s self-professed heroes. She turned the brash language into something gorgeous, even as her voice took on a guttural quality.

Mega-hits “Better” and “On the Radio” were met to cheers of recognition during the set, but the true crowd-pleasers were saved for the four-song encore. “Us” turned into a sing-a-long thanks in large part to its inclusion in 2009 rom-com 500 Days of Summer, which left only hauntingly beautiful closer “Samson” to shake down the temple walls.

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