By Al Kaufman
Regina Spektor is an acquired taste. While most often compared to that other weird piano playing diva, Tori Amos, Spektor comes across as more appealing, and possibly slightly wackier.
Spektor’s CDs have always been a mix of sheer beauty, idiosyncrasies, and sometimes downright annoyances. Live, the annoyances dissipate. Armed with just herself on piano (and occasionally guitar), a four-piece string section (led by the late Dan Cho) and a drummer (Dave Heilman), Live in London has an almost organic feel, yet remains rich and full. Spektor is able to bring out the crackling energy of a live performance while maintaining the songs’ studio qualities. It is a feat rarely fulfilled on live recordings.
Live is heavy on Spektor’s last studio CD, Far. Nine of the 22 songs on the live disc are from that release. Yet, Live in London still makes a fine primer for the uninitiated. Her piano wizardry and vocal gymnastics are in great form. Even some of her more cloying songs, such as “That Time,” “Wallet” and “Laughing With,” seem more endearing. The notable exceptions may be the three new cuts presented. “Silly Eye Color Generalizations” is just that. “Bobbing for Apples” just seems to be an excuse for her to repeat the self-congratulatory line, “Someone next door is fucking to one of my songs.” “Love, You’re a Whore,” although a rather spiffy country tune, can’t help but come across a bit gimmicky. Nonetheless, Spektor understands that it’s a fun show closer.
The accompanying DVD from the same show is a must for Spektor fans. Spektor shows off her Texas-sized mouth as she earnestly caresses her piano keys while adoring young women look on longingly from the pit. It is a shame that her usual between song banter has been cut, replaced instead with short snippets of life on the road, in airports, and backstage. It’s all meant to make Spektor seem more human but only distracts from the actual concert. The camera work is high quality with numerous cuts and angles. And it’s nice to see her get out from behind the piano near the end of the show to just sing or play some guitar. She is in total command.
Regina Spektor is a quirky little treasure. This CD and DVD showcase her skills in all their freaky and geeky glory.