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The Mass Media

Music Review: Regina Spektor

Regina+Spektor
Regina Spektor

Like her music, Regina Spektor’s fan base is a mix of young and old. In equal portions at the Boston Orpheum last night were aging hippies with hair down to their waists in ornate ponytails, squealing teenage girls lighting up the audience in a mosaic of iPhone screen glares, and middle-aged folk holding tightly to their cans of craft beer and wine coolers.

Some of the them were excited. Yet some had a twinge of apprehension; they expected a night of pop queen drudgery, and auto-tuned crooning over boys. They expected the usual pop singer fare. Yet with Spektor, it’s best to expect the unexpected.

From the moment she stepped onto the stage, all eyes were on Spektor. Clad in a flowing crimson dress, she greeted the crowd with a wide grin, and the statement, “Happy International Women’s Day.” The crowd clapped and roared in approval as she sat before the grand piano on stage and played the opening notes of 2006’s “On the Radio.” Lasers and lights cut through the Orpheum air, a dose of arena-sized flair in the intimate concert hall.

In her 23-song set, she moved effortlessly from piano-driven ballads like “Sailor Song” to straight-forward rocking tunes like “You’ve Got Time.” “You’ve Got Time,” mind you, was used as the theme song to the wildly popular Netflix dramedy “Orange is the New Black.” The applause swelled after the show’s encore, where Spektor brought out several fan favorites, “Fidelity” and “Samson,” both from her breakout 2006 album “Begin to Hope.”

The most interesting feature of Spektor’s music is the slew of poetic and musical influences she shows in her music. Her style is unorthodox, a mixture of Kate Bush, the Beatles, and a dose of classical sensibilities. Coming from the Soviet Union at a young age, Spektor immigrated with her family to the New York borough of the Bronx. Initially playing classical pieces, she became interested in western music styles like hip hop and punk rock. She got her start in the New York City anti-folk scene, experiencing mainstream success when she opened for the fellow New Yorkers The Strokes’ 2004 “Room on Fire” tour.

The artist can say a lot with how much noise they can make within a small instrumentation, and how well they can construct such instrumentation. Spektor, toting a piano, a cello, and a sparse drumkit, can rock harder and more truthfully than most artists today. In the op-ed I wrote last year, I defended Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize for literature, and favorably compared his massive body of work to that of many famous poets. This Russian singer-songwriter’s music follows a similar pattern as Dylan’s, both artists using narratives and poetic imagery to paint powerful pictures through their music.
It is fitting that she played in a Boston venue that has held diverse musical artists, such as David Bowie, Pearl Jam, and the former Boston Symphony. Like the Orpheum Theatre, Spektor’s music is a melting pot of old and new, eclectic and distinctly unique, and a must see.