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Regina Spektor Live in London Review

Live. Released 2010.  

BBC Review

The sweet and spellbinding performer releases a colourful audio-visual package.

Mark Beaumont 2010

Having been at the very gig here carved into posterity, it’s the between-song applause – rapturous, overwhelming and drenched with genuine affection for this charmingly gangly Moscow-via-NYC kookstrel – that jars. Because the abiding memory of this Regina Spektor gig is 90 minutes of tense but reverent hush as the Hammersmith Apollo holds its heart in its hands and whispers breathlessly along for fear of drowning out a single hammered piano chord, sweep of strings or percussive mike-kiss. Those deafening cheers are half appreciation, half relief at not having missed an iota of Spektor’s swirling romantic reveries or tragic-comic character tales.

A CD/DVD package, the audio here offers proof of Regina’s rise through the quirkstress ranks, outstripping Tori Amos and brushing at the underside of Kate Bush. That she can ram an hour and a half with faultless piano balladry full of wit, charm and inventive imagery – while not even touching such classics as Summer in the City, Better or Poor Little Rich Boy – is testament to one of the broadest and best canons in 21st century singer-songwriting. When she’s not artfully deploying Biblical relationship metaphors on Samson, she’s teasing emotive depths out of a story about finding a stranger’s wallet in Wallet, likening a love affair to an eroding statue in the euphoric Us or taking a rare trip to her guitar stand to play Bobbing for Apples, a playful calypso about one of Kings of Leon having sex to a Regina song in the hotel room next door. For a woman with only a piano, a guitar, a string section and her own vocal clicks and chirrups at her disposal, she creates a remarkably varied and colourful world.

It’s those tics, trills and toothy grins that make the DVD the more essential part of the release, though. Spektor is a sweet and spellbinding performer and it’s the onstage eccentricities that make her so riveting to watch. To see Apres Moi peppered with "ugh"s, larksong and verses in Russian, her mike-tapping percussion on Eet or her awkward acceptance of Hammersmith’s balcony-quaking applause is to feel your widescreen warp with Spektor’s talent and warmth. And with each song intercut with rehearsal footage and tour bus tales of lost luggage and tourist stop-offs, it’s drenched in the character that’s threatening to make Spektor fem-folk’s cuddliest icon.

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