Last Night: Regina Spektor at the Greek Theatre

Don't be fooled! This picture was taken at the 2006 Latitude Festival in England.
Don't be fooled! This picture was taken at the 2006 Latitude Festival in England.

Last Night: Regina Spektor at the Greek Theatre, Los Angeles; October 28, 2009.

Better Than: Moving to Regina, the second-largest city in the province of Saskatchewan.

MVP of the Night: Dancing dude that got right in front of the stage and up in Regina's grill during show-closer "Love, You're a Whore." It took security way longer than you'd expect to react to him; either because they figured he was ultimately harmless or because they were mesmerized by his moves.

Is Regina Spektor just too cute for her own good?

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Let's consider the evidence: Wednesday night at the Greek, she wore a poofy white dress with a large black prop bow tie. She said things like "it's so amazing to be here!" and "this is exciting!" so many times, that she sounded more like a contest winner than someone whose fifth studio album, Far, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 this past June. When moving to her Yamaha on stage right for "Dance Anthem of the '80s," she childishly uttered "I'm in the dark" until a spotlight focused on her ("now I'm in the light," she replied).

All very cute, and all possibly just a bit too precious to handle over 100 minutes of a live performance if not for the simple fact that Spektor is phenomenally talented.

The singer/pianist's adorableness isn't cloying; it adds to her unique appeal. In one instant, she's innocently commenting on the weather (a brisk 60 degrees or so) with lines like "I hope our love is keeping you all warm," the next, declaring that "someone next door is fucking to one of my songs" on live staple "Bobbing for Apples."

It's a duality that extends to her impressive vocal range--between delivering high-pitched coos in numbers like "Human of the Year," to the guttural "ooo ooo ooo"s on "Folding Chair," Spektor confidently navigated a self-inflicted vocal obstacle course during her set. It's in the Guns N' Roses references of "On the Radio" backed by a string quartet, and in the diversity of the Wednesday crowd, which ranged from typical indie snobs to older folks appreciative of all the piano (if not all the f-words).

Though not sold out, the venue was still pretty full, with fans not afraid to laugh out loud at lyrics like "I need your car and I need your love, so won't you help a brother out?" on "Ode to Divorce." Maybe it was the first time a lot of people there heard the song--it was one of only three songs in the set from 2004's Soviet Kitsch, and Spektor didn't truly begin to permeate the mainstream until 2006's Begin to Hope, the album that provided much of the night's crowd-pleasers like "On the Radio" and "Samson"--or maybe it was just because those lyrics are pretty funny.

The fact that Spektor nearly filled the 5,700 capacity amphitheater is in itself a little remarkable. Not that she's not worth it (clearly), but because it's final confirmation that she's no longer a not-so well kept hipster secret, as if her recent appearance on Saturday Night Live or spots on the (500) Days of Summer (Soviet Kitsch track "Us") and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ("The Call") soundtracks wasn't proof enough of that.

There's also the thought that music like this, between the simple nature of much of the set--several songs were just Spektor by herself on her piano, though she also played guitar, sang a cappella and was joined by a string quartet and drummer for most of the show--and her intensely incisive lyrics ("You thought by now you'd be better than you are," on "Once More With Feeling"), it seems like music far better suited to a more intimate setting. But it works. The songs are so strong, and Spektor is so good at what she does. Which is a lot more than being cute.

Critic's Notebook:

Random Detail: Nothing upsets an otherwise perfectly lovely evening than hearing meathead dudes shout out creepy things like "you break MY heart," after Spektor sings "and it breaks my heart" at the end of "Fidelity," or just simply "marry me."

Personal Bias: I totally get those meathead dudes.

By the Way: My sister thinks that Regina Spektor and Chelsea Clinton look alike. I'm beginning to agree.

Regina Spektor set list:
"The Calculation"
"Eet"
"Folding Chair"
"Ode to Divorce"
"Riot Gear"
"Machine"
"Laughing With"
"One More Time with Feeling"
"Two Birds"
"Blue Lips"
"On the Radio"
"The Call"
"Dance Anthem of the '80s"
"Silly Eye Color Generalizations"
"Bobbing for Apples"
"That Time"
"Après Moi"
"Poor Little Rich Boy"
"Human of the Year"
"Man of a Thousand Faces"

Encore:
"Samson"
"Us"
"Fidelity"
"Hotel Song"
"Love, You're a Whore"


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