​Regina Spektor @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK – 5th August 2017

Posted by Zyllah Moranne-Brown on Saturday Aug 5, 2017 Under Alternative, Folk, Indie

Review by Adrienne Frances.

I’ve seen Regina Spektor play tiny venues, armed with just a piano, and a chair that she slapped for percussion on acapella tracks, but with the Symphony Hall comes drummer, keyboard and cellist. Strangely, no support for the Birmingham date at least (though I’m assuming it’s for the whole tour, as none has been advertised?) so I’d imagined an early curfew for once… But with a 24 song set, I was quite mistaken.

“It’s so pretty here! You’re so pretty! [Coy giggle.]” – she knows how to play the crowd, though her giggles are utterly genuine, her cheeks blushing, and her face exuding awe at the venue. And it IS pretty in the Symphony Hall, but not as pretty as she is in bright red brogues, ripped black jeans and blouse, complete with coiffed curls and red lips. I’d be a terrible feminist if I left my description of her merits at just her appearance (though I now obviously need to source myself a pair of red brogues because they are AWESOME!) and I think it’ll be quickly apparent that I have nothing to criticize about her performance. Her extensive set included all of the fan favourites (which the crowd respectfully sang along to in such hushed tones that they did not drown out her vocals, unlike other shows of hers) along with many tracks from her latest release: ‘Remember Us to Life’.

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The Symphony Hall is a long long way from the sweaty frantic energy of Manchester Albert Hall where I saw her last year, or the intimacy of gigs years ago at the Glee Club, however she navigated this disconnect with earlier work by playing a chunk of the set solo. Tracks such as ‘Apres Moi’ benefited from such treatment, and ‘Bobbing for Apples’ generated giggles from the crowd at the lyrics, ‘someone next door’s fucking to one of my songs’ whilst she manically strummed at her guitar.

“Next song is dedicated to everyone who had the right idea about America.. shit’s really fucked up right now, and we need to keep the doors open.” Hearing ‘Ballad of a Politician’ felt poignant and melancholy, as I first heard it in Manchester just days after Trump was elected. The crowd was largely in shock at the results back then, as was Spektor, and the track now feels even more relevant with lyrics such as: ‘A man inside a room is shaking hands with other men // This is how it happens // Our carefully laid plans’. How could I NOT love a woman whose work is political, melancholy, at times hugely angry, deals with love and feminism.. and whose voice is so rich and bewitching?! Angry Spektor might be my favourite, and tracks like ‘Bleeding Heart’ and especially ‘Small Bill$’ did not disappoint with piano slaps and crazed growling into the mic.

I think I particularly love Spektor because she’s silly and girly and giggly (asking the audience to bear with her as she tries to remember ‘how to sit’?!) but she’s also an inspiring badass with strong political opinions written into her music without preaching. She’s passionate without preaching. A perfect combination. A perfect combination which segues right into forgetting her own lyrics, and absolutely owning it. Humming to work them out. Coyly asking the audience for help remembering, before suddenly visibly having the lightbulb moment where it floods back and she launches straight back into ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’. I love that she so authentically embraces her quirks and foibles, and doesn’t hide who she is. Which is inspiring, clearly.


Setlist:
The Calculation
Eet
Grand Hotel
Tornadoland
Folding Chair
Better
The Light
Apres Moi
Ballad of a Politician
Bobbing for Apples
That Time
Older and Taller
Bleeding Heart
Dance Anthem of the 80s
Small Bill$
You’ve got Time
Blue Lips
Seller of Flowers
Obsolete
Ne me quitte pas
Us

Encore
Fidelity
Hotel Song
Samson

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