Regina Spektor Overcomes Bronchitis With Inspired Performance In Anaheim [PHOTOS] REVIEW+PHOTOS: REGINA SPEKTOR @ HOUSE OF BLUES (ANAHEIM) 10/22/17
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Anaheim, CA- At the moment, Regina Spektor is a party of one. Playing a run of small solo shows in cities she doesn’t always hit on tour, she is one artist with one piano and one guitar.
Like any artist on a solo venture, she’s using the opportunity to rework her hits, play songs from deep within her catalogue and have some fun with songs that have never made it onto records.
Arriving on stage about 30 minutes after show time — uncharacteristically late for someone who paused her LA show last summer out of concern for a spectator who fainted — it made more sense when she explained she was battling bronchitis, unable to stop herself from coughing when she was scheduled to take the stage.
You wouldn’t know it from her performance. Her voice, small and shaky between songs, boomed once she began to sing, soaring from note to note with her trademark elasticity.
Opening with the upbeat “Folding Chair,” she took the audience through her winding career, hitting highlights such as “Us,” “On the Radio” and the piano tour de force “Apres Moi.” “Ballad of a Politician” made an appearance, though she said she’d rather see the day its commentary has become irrelevant, but lamented the day simply hasn’t come.
“As an immigrant — as a refugee — I am so pissed at the hijacking of America,” she said. Spektor’s family immigrated to New York from the Soviet Union when she was 9 years old. “But I have so much hope for people living with love for one another.”
Newer tracks “Grand Hotel” and “Obsolete” were counterbalanced with “Sailor Song,” the wonderful oddity that is “Music Box” and a rendition of “Hotel Song” in which she brought out her husband Jack Dishel (formerly of The Moldy Peaches and now Only Son) to beat box the percussion that drives the track.
A solo performance from a pianist is a gift to fans: Her strength on the keys, notably her knack for knowing when a more delicate touch would help a moment land, lent the show real power, despite the lack of a full band.
“I’ve been playing with all these amazing musicians, and I can hear their parts, but you can’t. Maybe you can,” she said with a laugh. Preparing for a solo show, she said, was a head space she hadn’t occupied in some time. “I got to thinking about old songs I hadn’t played with the band. This is an old, old song.”
She wasn’t kidding. Diehard fans were thrilled to hear the opening notes of the deep cut “Prisoners,” a track from 2002’s Songs, the album before her major label debut Soviet Kitsch.
It’s also a song full of glottal stops that make it sound as if she’s singing underwater or into a fan — a bold choice in the face of bronchitis — but Spektor didn’t tone down the vocal acrobatics that define so many of her songs for the sake of her ailing voice. Perhaps she’s just used to working around things like this.
“This is how ailment-y I am. I wrote [this next song] when I’d really messed up my right hand. I thought, ‘Hmm, I need something I can play with my left hand,” she said ahead of “Left Hand Song.” “I should’ve come up with a more creative name. Composers and pianists are clumsy people just like me.”
A few measures in, she played the wrong note.
“See?” she said with a laugh. “Now you don’t have to wonder what I do with my time. I just go, mess up, go again, mess up. You know those days you just get noodle fingers? Or maybe it’s all the fun medicines I’m on.”
The night wouldn’t have been complete without a nod to the late Tom Petty, who once called her one of the most talented musicians alive today. Joined by her husband on guitar, the pair gave us a tender performance of “Yer So Bad,” from Petty’s 1989 solo album Full Moon Fever.
“We as humans have lost an incredible person,” she said. “We were lucky to be friends with him and to love him as a friend. We wanted to sing this song for him.”
Even though it’s a track tinged with dark humor, they embraced its sweeter moments when the husband-wife duo could look at each other and sing the chorus, “Yer so bad, best thing I ever had / In a world gone mad, yer so bad,” but you couldn’t ignore the feeling they were singing to Petty himself.
Her voice still sounded crisp and controlled as she moved into show-closer “Samson” — a one-two punch to our emotions when it follows “Yer So Bad” — pushing through illness with little backup but brimming with heart.
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Sonya Singh is a freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Los Angeles magazine, Rogue magazine, NME and Nylon, among others. She has photographed artists from dusky clubs to stadium stages, reported stories from inside maximum-security prison and interviewed hundreds of people from U.S. ambassadors to Slash. A graduate of Pepperdine University, she previously worked as an editorial assistant in London and in television production at BBC Worldwide in Los Angeles.