The entrance line snaked around the corner and down the street as hundreds of devoted fans anticipated snagging the perfect standing space for one of the best live solo performers of the decade. In her cross-country tour, anti-folk princess Regina Spektor stopped in Austin to a sold-out crowd at Stubb’s Amphitheater.
Despite the packed house, Regina turned the crowd into an intimate gathering, not unlike the New York coffeehouses her career rose from. A joy and gratefulness exuded from every note that spilled from the piano, and her clever lyrics were delivered with the humility of a freshly signed artist. If her sweet crooning and expertly played piano ballads aren’t charming enough, her megawatt smile and the “Thank you so, so, so, so, so… much” between each song could win anyone over.
The set began with songs from her latest album, Far (QRO review), covering the singles off the bat. Although received with obvious familiarity, these new songs seemed like more of a formality. The real spirit came with the tracks from 2006’s Begin to Hope, the album that brought her into the mainstream. “On the Radio” brought squeals of recognition from the largely female crowd, but she saved her smash single, “Fidelity”, and her 500 Days of Summer selection, “Us”, for the lively five-song encore. Peppered amongst songs from her latest two albums were signature live cuts and heavier pre-Billboard tracks. Spektor’s powerful voice commanded complete stillness from the crowd during “Ode to Divorce”, gliding over flowing piano. The precious conversational style of “Silly Eye Color Generalizations” and “Bobbing for Apples”, which have not appeared on any of Spektor’s albums, were performed without the awkwardness of unfamiliarity, garnering laughs from the attentive audience. A recent dabbling in what Spektor called “country” songwriting closed out the set. “Love, You’re a Whore” had all of the lyrical ingredients for a jaded alt-country song, but sounded a little more like polka was thrown into the mix. The abrupt genre shift was a cute end, but hopefully more of a novelty song and not a glimpse of a new Spektor.
Regina Spektor is just quirky enough to be endearing, but doesn’t pose ridiculous on-stage antics that make the show difficult to swallow. Her song style is simple enough to go down smooth, but she has obvious classical training that gives her the ability to employ flawless vocal tricks and flourishes that so many have tried to imitate. Overall, she has achieved the perfect balance between being a serious performer and a pop star. While her shows are a fun, lighthearted experience, you can’t leave without realizing that you have witnessed something great.