Regina Spektor at The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall 8/8/2012
Author: Jake
Anti-Folk darling Regina Spektor played the first show of her U.S. leg of her current tour at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on August 8th. Her last visits to Portland saw her play at The Roseland and The Crystal Ballroom, but The Schnitz and its Italian Rococo Revival architecture seems to be more attuned to Regina’s theatrical voice and simple rhythm section.

Spektor, currently supporting her new album What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, played an hour-and-a-half long set, replete with both songs from the new album as well as favorites from her old ones, including the song “Fidelity” from her 2006 breakthrough album Begin To Hope.

Since her signing to major label Sire, some fans believe that Spektor’s quirkiness, both through vocals and unusual instrumentation (such as tapping feet on chairs and the like while playing) have been tamped down by major label execs looking for a more mainstream sound. Indeed, it would appear as such: 2009’s Far was highly produced, taking away from some of Regina’s natural talents and stripped-down instrumentation. 2012’s What We Saw From the Cheap Seats even features a rerecording of the song “Ne Me Quitte Pas” from her 2002 independent release Songs, adding instruments and removing vocal bridges.

Still, in concert it’s Regina’s show, and she treated the audience to a solid performance that her fans have come to know her for. Regina took center stage at the Schnitz, featuring a small group of back-up musicians including only a drummer, cellist, and keyboardist, used primarily for filler and additional noises on certain songs such as her fun “Dance Anthem of the 80’s.” Despite the size of the venue, Spektor made the show intimate, keeping a delightful rapport with the audience, and even politely asking a couple of drunk girls who were standing at the stage in the front row if they could sit down so that those behind them could enjoy the show. In fact Regina’s only miss (and a ultimately rewarding one at that) was a brief memory lapse as she forgot a section of lyrics in her song “Eet.” Said Regina after: “I forgot some words in the previous song, and I thought that really is ironic to forget the words to a song that is about forgetting the words to a song.”

Despite Spektor’s sharp performance and connection with the audience, one can sense a hesitancy from her, as if she is surprised as to why people would come to see her play. It’s that modesty and the atmosphere that she creates that continues to build Spektor’s strong fan base, and increases the size of the venue she plays every time she visits.