As DJ Anne Litt said when she took the stage to introduce Regina Spektor, you always remember the first time you heard one of her songs. And, if not the very first time you heard her, the first time one of her songs knocked you off your feet – emotionally speaking.
This happened to be a very special week for the singer. It’s the 23rd anniversary of her family moving to the US from her native Russia. Her opportunity to learn piano took place after her father overheard someone speaking in an Eastern European accent on the subway. That man’s wife became her teacher. She was 10 years old. In some ways, it’s a classic immigrant story and I think it puts her songs in a whole new perspective.
She is a rare singer that emotes intensely without ever looking like she’s acting. I especially enjoyed her duet on “Call Them Brothers” with her husband Jack Dishel. At the helm of her Steinway piano, she warmed up the room with some slower songs before rocking through some of our favorites off her new record – “All the Rowboats” and “Ne Me Quitte Pas” – towards the end of the set.
“Regina Spektor’s smile” should be it’s own band name because her mega-watt smile truly fills the room. She grinned throughout and what she does with her voice is simply amazing. She even created “mouth trumpet” noises for “The Party”. Always playful and fun.
Anne asked her about the dichotomy in many of her songs, which walk a fine line between love and despair, comedy and fear. Regina acknowledged it with a nod and then mentioned something that really hit home with me personally. She said everything in life is divided that way, alluding to Russian Jews in the Holocaust – “all these people died but you got to live”. Regina is not a surface level pop song writer trying to bang out a hit. Her reference points are deep and philosophical and that’s what makes even her catchiest songs very poignant. And what has inspired such a passionate following among her fans.
Young girls lined the front of the stage at Apogee’s Berkeley Street studio for this private show, alongside other loving fans like actress Elizabeth Banks, who discussed her love for Regina in her Guest DJ Project set, as well as Andrew Garfield (Spiderman!). It was a beautiful evening of music and I can’t wait for you to hear it when it airs on Morning Becomes Eclectic next month.
Regina Spektor Live on KCRW Set List
Small Town Moon
Call Them Brothers
Ballad of a Politician
All the Rowboats
Ne Me Quitte Pas
Ode to Divorce