Metropolis is truly abuzz with anticipation tonight. Its been a while since Moscow-born, New York based singer-songwriter Regina Spektor graced this city, and tonight she has chosen Montreal for the first show of a month-long run of shows across this fair continent. There are no support bands tonight, which makes sense really – this crowd needs no warming up whatsoever. Just the sight of a dark-lit stage with the grand piano in the middle illuminated by a single spotlight is more than enough to have everyone excited for what is to follow.
And what follows over the next 1 hour and 45 minutes is nothing short of spectacular. Despite great mainstream success over recent years, Regina still comes across as down-to-earth, a little ditzy, and genuinely overwhelmed by the size of the crowd packed into Metropolis throughout the course of the show; midway through, after a rousing Tornadoland, she just blurts out of nowhere “I can’t believe this is my job, thank you so much for coming!“
As she arrives on stage and sits at the piano, she nervously waves and jokes “this is like one of these dreams where I forgot my pants!” After the ever-uplifting On The Radio opens the show, someone in the crowd yells `WE LOVE YOU REGINA!,” to which she immediately responds “I LOVE YOU TOO!” After Grand Hotel, someone yells “WHY ARE YOU SO CUTE ALL THE TIME??“ This stumps her somewhat (unsurprisingly really; kind of a weird question…) – “I don’t know how to answer that….I’ll ponder it…“ The audience interaction is a regular theme throughout the show, and far from being annoyed by the constant yells, Regina is affable enough to seemingly enjoy it.
Musically, the show is glorious. Accompanied by cello, drums, and keys, Regina and her piano sound absolutely perfect, and there is no need to set up a flashy stage show to keep the crowd occupied. Regina is mostly sat at her piano, though on a couple of occasions, she gets up and prowls the front of the stage with just a microphone like a true frontwoman during stirring renditions of Small Bill$ and The Trapper And The Furrier. The huge cheers that accompany these moments where she is unshackled from her piano stool are tangible – even Regina laughs that she must be the only person in the world who gets cheered just for standing up!
Thats not to say that the show is not without its glitches; there is some evidence she may be a little rusty after a few months off touring. One song is skipped altogether after a couple of notes, as Regina gets a little exasperated at forgetting how it goes, hurriedly explaining to her band “lets just skip it.“ Such moments of imperfection, though, just seem to add to the perfection of the set. During the encore, midway through Fidelity, she trips up a little on the breakdown whilst singing “All my friends say that of course it’s gonna get better,“ and so elects to let the crowd sing the furious “better better better“ part that follows while Regina herself falls silent and tried to catch-up with her piano. Indeed, the highlight of the set comes during last song Samson, where again, she seems to forget the notes partway through and stares at the keys for a few seconds, pressing a few combinations until she gets it right. She fails, and jokingly refers back to the joke at the start about this being a dream, exclaiming “maybe this is a nightmare!“ Someone in the crowd yells “do it acapella!“ Regina duly obliges, finishing the interrupted verse in perfect vocal harmony with the crowd, and it sounds absolutely magical. She brings the piano back at the next chorus, and the song finishes without any further hiccups.
Other set highlights include a moving tribute to the legendary Leonard Cohen by way of a cover of Chelsea Hotel #2, and a rousing Après Moi, the latter eliciting huge cheers during the sections sung in Russian and French (of course!). After Sailor Song, and its mantra-like chorus of “Mary Anne`s a b*tch,“ someone in the crowd jokes “get past her Regina!“ Regina responds “I can`t, she`s part of my setlist!,“ before joking “there`s an incredibly bossy lady here, but in a good way, like a life coach!“ Everyone laughs in unison once again.
As cliché as it sounds, though, every song was a highlight, all 22 of them, and made for what is surely one of the gigs of the year so far. Regina is back on the road, and North America is in for a treat – a treat both perfect and imperfect at the same time.
On the Radio
Older and Taller
Chelsea Hotel #2 (Leonard Cohen cover)
The Trapper and the Furrier
You’ve Got Time
Sellers of Flowers
Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)
Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Arianne Bergeron