“I’ll just play really fast so you all can get out of the rain” Regina Spektor suggested to her soaking wet fans at the Hearst Greek Theatre on Friday night, receiving an astounding “No!” from the audience. “Cool” she shyly replied, “Thanks for hanging out.”
Opening with “On the Radio” off of her 2006 album, Begin to Hope, brought the crowd to life, with fans shaking out their rain ponchos to stand up and dance, lightly singing along to the catchy hit. When the rain began again during her fourth song “Blue Lips” the crowd’s spirits were not dampened, though their socks may have been, letting out a huge cheer and wrapping arms around each other to stay warm. Surprisingly, the rain did little to hurt the turnout, with almost every seat in the amphitheater filled.
Spektor’s quiet, soft demeanor was emphasized by an initial lack of stage lighting except for a single spotlight illuminating her at the piano center stage. Accompanied in some songs by a string quartet and drums and others completely alone, using her voice as the only instrument, Spektor pulled the audience in with her lofty vocal quality and piercing lyrics. While some entertainers need elaborate dance routines and multiple costumes, after her humorous song “Silly Eye Color Generalizations” it became clear that Spektor’s brilliance as a performer comes from within.
Because of safety concerns, umbrellas are not allowed at the Greek, so the stadium instead passed out blue and gold ponchos, creating a sea of Cal-colored fans. A security officer apologized to a couple for taking away their umbrella, to which they enthusiastically responded, “Don’t worry, we can deal with a little rain, we’re Russian!”
This Russo-American spirit was especially strong, with Spektor using the story of her emigration from Russia as a launchpad for a politically relevant message. Dedicating her song, “Ballad of a Politician” to those who seek asylum and protection in the United States, she shouted “we must keep doors, windows and hearts open. That means no walls!”
As she urged the audience to stand together in the face of oppression, the storm raged, and though not directly in the rain, Spektor was still affected, often rubbing her fingers and moving a heater closer to her. Her concern was still on her drenched fans, though, at one point standing up to pour her water bottle on her head “in solidarity!”
The downpour came in waves, sometimes becoming an extra instrument, harmonizing with Spektor’s soft tones and enhancing the beauty of her vocals. “Thanks nature” Spektor giggled, referencing the sky’s contribution to her set. Often the rain became a visual spectacle, too, with the light pink and blue lights often catching the drizzle, bouncing light around the arena and creating a dazzling kaleidoscopic effect.
Eventually, as the stairs of the Greek became rushing rivers, not even Spektor’s awe-inspiring vocal acrobatics and piano arpeggios could warm the audience. After playing several songs off her new album, Remember Us To Life including the Wes Anderson-inspired “Grand Hotel” and the fast-spoken zinger “Small Bill$,” the sky opened up and many fans made their way out of the rain. She played one more song, “The Light,” ironically singing “the sun comes shining in my eyes” while the rain poured down, before she was forced to leave the stage due to safety concerns.
A few minutes later, the loudspeakers announced she would return for one more song. Having not played many of her most well-known songs the crowd speculated: Would it be the youthful romantic “Us” off her first album or the upbeat bouncy “Fidelity?” In the end it was the fan-favorite “Sampson,” to which the crowd flung off their hoods (now completely useless in the downpour) and softly but poignantly sang along. Combined with the rain and the tender chorus of the audience, the refrain “You are my sweetest downfall” turned introspective, with each audience member bringing their own meaning to her bittersweet lyrics. Fans left the concert soaked and freezing, but Spektor’s performance warmed them to the core.
Contact Rebecca Gerny at [email protected].