The view from the cheap seats were just one of the bad auspices for Regina Spektor's United Palace set on Tuesday, May 15th, 2012. An ugly as hell red and black dress, a terrible first song she has been trotting out for a month, and still at the start of the tour in aid of her upcoming new album, Regina has been fiddling with the setlist.Two weeks ago 13 of 24 songs were new, a month earlier at the Wellmont the set toppled over with an astounding 15 of 21 songs yet to be released.
Disaster loomed but it didn't happen. Here is why:
1. The songs off the new album are magnificent
2. She balanced the new and old songs perfectly.
3. And, man can she play piano.
The second song was "The Calculator" and that was it: Regina never looked back in a set that went back as far as Soviet Kitsch ,included a duet with Only Son's Jack Dishel, and whose finest moment, a new song called "How" is among her best ever.
"How" is a full fledged romantic ballad -it is her "Something", a potential inclusion into the Great American Songbook. Regina's vocal is textbook, the Buddy Holly hiccup, the swooning fallsetto touches, the swooping gillasandro before the descending piano chorus. This song is so beautiful, it is immediately one of her greatest moments. As is "All The Rowboats", more than apt in the hated United Palace., with its beautiful interior hiding a heart of pure stone. "Rowboats" is Regina at her most vigorous, there is real rattling your chains piano playing.
Of the new songs, there wasn't close to a dud. But "Firewood", with its classical touches, about chopping her piano into splinters was a standout. So was "Small Town Moon"… With a cello player, keyboards and drums as back up, the music had color and pacing: it sounded wonderful. I find United Palaces' acoustics cold, the ceiling is too high, even the fourth row (I sat there for Monsters Of Folk a couple of years back) is a distant. Regina brought so much warmth to the proceedings. It was the first time I've enjoyed a set there.
Of the oldies, "Laughing About" and "Blue Lips" are not favorites of mine but "Folding Chairs" was just as wonderful and strange as ever and there were lashings of songs off Begin To Hope -given short shrift so far in the tour. And sure, I miss "Bopping For Apples" and I miss her rapping mid set, and playing drums, but I don't miss them enough. I like what I got in its place.
The set was so well paced but it was hard not to be. Regina has so many great songs but is really a schticky chick: she pulls out the Music Hall "Sailor Song" and is as willing to go deep into her Russian roots and pull out a gypsy folkie refrain as an glammy popness or a classical U Turn.
The shouts of "I love you" from the 70/30 female audience seemed a little ambigious and while I didn't see a lesbian audience the way I used to for Ani DiFranco, I would be pretty sure that a woman who starts a love song with "We were like sisters…" is playing hide in plain sight. I am not sure why Regina doesn't come out, even a perfunctory check out of her lyric would suggest she is a lesbian. Unfortunately for Regina, however hard she wishes to keep her personal life personal, that ain't happening in 2012. It never did or has. Ask Oscar Wilde. So, no, she isn't a lesbian and is indeed married to Jack Dishel, her Only Son's opening act! Consider her officially
The set was a little on the slim side but Regina left her most consistent, if not best, moments for the end. The encore was just ridiculous: "Us", "Fidelity" and "Samson" -one for the long time fans, and two of her most popular songs. What a perfectending. What a great, great set. So what did we see from the cheap seats? A great rock star with another great album waiting in the wings.