On her new live release, the singer-songwriter catches lightning in the bottle.
Regina Spektor is preparing for the premiere of Live in London (issued on DVD and CD in November on Sire), when I reach her by telephone. The Russian-born singer-songwriter seems both excited and apprehensive about the impending release, but she should have no need to be nervous. This live set is uniquely thrilling – both remarkable through her talent and stage presence.
So why a live CD, after performing and releasing music for more than a decade? (Her first, self-released album, 11:11, came out in 2001.)
“First, it’s cool because it’s a nice thing to have, therecording and the DVD, because it’s a personal memory of these shows and how they’ve been. Before, I hadn’t seen anything besides cell phone imagines. Now, I’ll enjoy this when I’m old. But it started with [director, and Tom Petty’s daughter] Adria Petty It was her idea. She said we’d go together and she would shoot it,” Spektor reflects. “I was worried. I do a lot worse when I know I am being recorded, though I think I’ve gotten better. When I know I have one chance to get it right, I freeze up. But she is such a good friend, so we embarked on this together. London just happened to be the last show of the tour, at the Apollo, a beautiful theatre, very historic. It was really incredible.”
The DVD is not just filled with incredible music, but also sensational cinematography, with great imaging and split screens at times, it makes for a unique show. The album set list is outstanding, with songs from her most recent album, Far, to 2006’s Begin to Hope and 2003’s Soviet Kitsch. Spektor says she played as many songs as possible, because, “I thought if I really fuck it up, I’ll have some songs that work.” She claims it was very hard to put together. The DVD has 18 songs on it, with bonus tracks, while the live album has 22, which everyone thought she was insane to do. But she stuck with her intuition, liking the flow of the album, and it works. She calls the album “the
soundtrack of the film.”
The album includes a range of songs, such as an entrancing rendition of “On the Radio,” the hit song “Laughing With,” and a new song with her signature storytelling style, “Bobbing for Apples.” She brilliantly infuses each song with energy and enthusiasm, putting all of her emotion forth. “The Call” in particular is beautiful, one of the most candid songs ever done by Spektor: “All you can do is try to know who your friends are as you head off to the war/ Pick a star on the dark horizon and follow the light/ You’ll come back when it’s over/ No need to say ‘goodbye.'” She closes with a new country song, which is unique for Spektor, called, “Love, You’re a Whore,” a
fun, witty number where she sings, “Love, love, love, you’re a whore, you’re a
Whore/ ‘Cause we bruise you and abuse you/ But time after time you take us back/ And kiss us hard on the mouth.”
Live, Spektor is vibrant and compelling, and she brings the audience right along with her. For a long set list, she never wanes, and it is a wonder how she can keep up with
that momentum. “I think that a lot of it is the people,” she says. “I’ve played shows when I was really tired or sick even thirty minutes before the show. I’ve thought, ‘How the hell am I going to play?’ But I walk out there all the people’s energy is really infectious. That’s the thing that happens at the live show. No matter how I’m feeling or what is happening, I get to do cool shit and all the adrenaline kicks in and I’m like, ‘I can run a marathon right now!’ And then it takes 5 hours to fall asleep because I’m so excited. It’s really positive. 99 percent of the time I have an amazing audience that’s really inspiring.”
Spektor has a fantasy of what she wants people to take away from the live show: “I think a lot of the time I like for them to walk away wanting to do things they’ve been putting off. That’s how I feel most of the time when I’m at a show, museum, movie, or reading a book – I want to walk away and do some of my own shit, or call that person I have been meaning to call. I think it should put you in the mood to live life now, a sense of urgency. I want to do things I’ve been putting off. Simple, but important stuff.”
Though Spektor has a sense of quirkiness in her music, many songs are very honest and candid. She tells it like it is, and that is what many people find so meaningful and
relatable. One might wonder what Spektor thinks of when she writes a song.
“It just sort of happens,” she says. “You feel like you want to write the song. A lot of the time the mood brings about whatever song it is, but I’ve been really sad before and written songs that were fun, and I’ve been happy and written songs that were sad. I think they’re really reflective of who you are. All songs have little bit of something in
each of them, and it’s mysterious to me.”
The DVD comes with the live show plus backstage and sound check footage, giving viewers a unique insight into her persona. The album itself is enthralling; every note
pulls on emotions, whether happy, sad, funny or thought-provoking. Spektor not only knows how to sing, play piano and write a good song, but she is woman who can perform. Not only did she wow the audience in London that night, but this collection of songs is destined to endure and continue to excite listeners.