Spektor’s quiet personality feeds audience hungry for music

Spektor also sang a song with her husband, who opened for her under then name Native Son.  Photo by Megan Schroder
Spektor also sang a song with her husband, who opened for her under then name Native Son. Photo by Megan Schroder

Some meals are best eaten with lots of conversation and laughter. Other meals are best eaten in quiet, enjoying each subtle flavor on the plate before you. Such was the case with Regina Spektor, who provided her sold-out audience with a feast of zesty sounds and playful melodies without much stage banter.

Ken Hefner prefaced the show by telling the audience, “Give her everything you’ve got. Don’t talk, don’t heckle, just take it in.”

Heckles still happened, but they never sidetracked Spektor, who rarely deviated from the performance at hand, letting her music do all of the talking — that was conversation enough.

Her music, which approaches something along the lines of pop-gone-classical, is a mixture of beautiful and weird. Given the nature of her music, I was really worried that Regina was going to have a bizarre stage personality, uncomfortably strange and self-absorbed. But who I saw on stage was a shy, sugar-sweet musician that just wanted to play her songs.

When she began the show with “Ain’t No Cover,” a song composed with only her voice and the beat of her palm on the mic, I was haunted; I didn’t want her to talk afterwards, I just wanted to mull over what I was fed — by myself — before doing the same with her next song. She allowed just that, as if she was taking Ken’s advice herself.

Live performances aren’t just another way to listen to music — they provide an opportunity for listener to connect to artist. Like her music, which often begins simply and grows more complex as it progresses, her performance slowly revealed her layers.

One of the few times she spoke (aside from her frequent, whispered “thank you”), she told a story about a friend’s two-year-old daughter who loved Russian children’s shows. She told it in a gentle, almost familial way, showing investment in the lives of others.

Another layer, simple as it may be, was when she invited the audience to sing “Happy Birthday” to her drummer. If you listened carefully, you’ll notice that she didn’t sing it with any embellishment or vibrato — she just sang it, much like an average person might sing it in the living room of their friend’s house.

Another layer came when she performed a cover of a song written by her favorite Russian musician. After that, it wasn’t difficult to see the inspiration for much of her music, nor was it difficult to feel her pride in her Russian heritage.

And perhaps the most shocking layer: her performance of “Sailor Song” at a Christian college, which showed just how bold her music can be in the face of her otherwise soft-spoken conversation.

All the while, her music — playful and grave, weird and graceful, complex and honest — was the main dish. Whatever banter she didn’t give in the silences was given back over and over again with every song she sang and every weird, playful, delightful thing she did with her voice.

About the Author

Will Montei

Will Montei is a Chimes staff writer and arts and entertainment on-call writer for the 2012-13 school year.

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