Regina Spektor has recently spoken of how, despite initial concerns to the contrary, becoming a mother has resulted in one of the most productive and creative periods of her career. There’s plenty of evidence of this on latest album Remember Us To Life, her first album in four years and arguably her most consistent offering to date, and tonight’s show at the Royal Festival Hall confirmed her standing as a performer who still elicits the most adoring of reactions.
She’s backed by a band and string quartet tonight, the latter ensuring that the beauty of her latest album is successfully translated into her live show and the former bolstering the sound of older songs (something immediately noticeable on opener On The Radio). The restrained simplicity of much of her new album embeds itself into the early part of tonight’s set. The winding, cascading piano lines of Grand Hotel segue neatly into the perfectly-judged pop of Older And Taller. Bleeding Heart has a sumptuous, polished freshness to it while Tornadoland is similarly delectable and pristine, demonstrating the strength of her current songwriting and recalling some of Laura Veirs’ recent work. The Light meanwhile spends its five minutes floating around the upper echelons of the Royal Festival Hall such is its transcendence and weightlessness. “You are perfection!” shouts a voice from the crowd and on this form it’s hard to disagree.
She moves away from the piano for the heightened drama of Small Bill$, her latest and deepest flirtation with different musical styles. Alongside the exasperated pleas against inequality and darker musical lurches of The Trapper And The Furrier, it also shows the breadth found on Remember Us To Life, both tracks serving to balance the lighter moments in tonight’s set.
Later she talks about being depressed by recent political events, worrying how she will soon return to a different America yet seeking solace in “love, art, friendships and travelling”. In this context Ballad Of A Politician sounds more cutting and uninhibited than ever and Après Moi’s espousal of fear seems particularly apt. She also marks the passing of Leonard Cohen with a heartfelt cover of Chelsea Hotel #2.
During the withdrawn detachment of Obsolete she is swept up in a sea of sadness, with only the most brittle of lone piano lines for navigation. It’s a stunning moment and is also a reminder of how certain songs can unexpectedly grow in stature and rise up to become highlights of live shows (similar can also be said tonight of the composed majesty of Blue Lips). The cinematic, fairytale-like Sellers Of Flowers delves into her own personal history, sounding like it has been extracted directly from the most moving scene of a biopic while The Visit has a softened, unabashed happiness to it, tonight showing off a joyful interaction between strings and piano.
During the encore she revisits some of her most loved moments, Fidelity fluttering like a butterfly before the exquisite, painful sweetness of Samson closes the show. She may be experiencing feelings of sadness and bewilderment about some of the negative things happening in the world around her but she is dealing with them in the only way she knows – confronting and overcoming them with the sheer beauty of her music.