Live Review: Regina Spektor at the Royal Festival Hall, 14th November 2016

I was so excited to go and listen to Regina Spektor – a singer who I’ve admired for many years ever since I picked up Begin to Hope out of curiosity in a Boxing Day sale, almost ten years ago.

This was my second time seeing the American songwriter, and the gap had been almost seven years. Since then, she has produced two fantastic albums, the most recent being Remember Us to Life, which is inspiring and thought-provoking in equal measure.

Taking place in the Royal Festival Hall, the ambience in the venue was incredibly calm and refined in comparison to the sticky floors and blaring music that is a staple warm-up for the gigs I’m more used to attending. With no support band, Spektor came on earlier than expected, opening with ‘On the Radio’, following through with similarly whimsical and arguably covered the primary songs from her new album in one fell swoop. ‘Older and Taller’ and ‘Bleeding Heart’ are standard Spektor fare, good on their own but lacking in impact when integrated into her full repertoire.

‘The Light’, my personal favourite from the new album, is a highlight of the evening, a sonically stunning example of how motherhood has developed Spektor’s range of subject matter and given added amelioration to her music. Following this, the setlist took a more serious turn, with Spektor discussing Donald Trump’s recent election, and playing ‘Ballad of a Politician’ in response, a particular rarity as she is often unwilling to discuss the meaning of her songs publicly.

This was followed by a stream of similarly serious choices, including ‘Après Moi’, ‘Blue Lips’ and ‘The Trapper and the Furrier’, interspersed with a charming cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Chelsea Hotel #2’, and a retelling of ‘You’ve Got Time’, the Orange is the New Black opening song. The end of the set picked up and ‘Us’ was picked as the final song, bringing back that warmth, familiarity and knowing wisdom that Spektor fans hold so dearly.

The encore was altogether more positive, filled with Begin to Hope songs and ending on Samson, with the audience audibly more involved. Remember Us to Life was played in full, and a lot of songs from Begin to Hope too, but I felt this was to the detriment of hearing a lot of the best songs from Far and What We Saw from the Cheap Seats. Perhaps this was reflective of Spektor’s mood in the current political climate, and the whole evening felt like an authentic representation of this. Next time, though, it would be fantastic to hear more of the joyful songs which I associate with her most.


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