Regina Spektor Review @ Brisbane Convention Centre 06.12.12

Regina Spektor @ Brisbane Convention Centre
Arts Editor and Senior Writer (many years until 2012)

Just 16 months after her last trip to our shores, a very different Regina Spektor made her presence felt at the Convention Centre last night.

Before that, though, comes support act Only Son, aka erstwhile Moldy Peaches guitarist Jack Dishel. He gets the night off to a shaky start, looking uncomfortable from the outset in front of a restless crowd he struggles to win over. Certainly, it's not hard to see why an anti-folk alumni like Dishel would be a good fit for Spektor's audience, but his solo material (some of which dates back to his other band, Stipplicon) does little to distinguish itself, and the decision to use an iPod for backing in place of a band comes off as a ridiculous affectation.

He charms with his banter between songs (at least until he asks the crowd "how does it feel to be so silent?", after they just finished giving him and his iPod more applause than they probably deserved), but for the most part, it's hard to see the appeal. Of course, the fact that he's, you know, married to Regina Spektor probably didn't hurt his chances of scoring the support slot.

He leaves, and the waiting game begins. Spektor reportedly felt unwell during the New Zealand leg of her tour, and perhaps that's why she's over an hour late to take to the stage. Certainly, nobody seems to be frantically working on any technical problems in that time, and no other explanation is forthcoming (at least Only Son doesn't offer to fire his iPod back up while we wait). When she finally appears, though, thanking us for our "patience", all is forgiven instantly.

Regina Spektor 2
She stands for an a cappella rendition of 'Ain't No Cover', and that incredible voice -- the one we gladly would have waited another hour or two to hear -- is in full effect from the opening tip. As soon as that exhibition is over, she takes a seat at her piano and launches straight into a tight set of crowd favourites with a minimum of fuss ('Hotel Song' is the most obvious ommission, but there's no time to miss it). It's an altogether different show to her 2011 set at Splendour In The Grass, which was her only show anywhere that year and understandably fraught with miscues (it probably didn't help that she couldn't hear herself over Pnau).

Here, there's no doubting her otherworldly proficiency, or that of her band. But the new set-up is lacking a certain intimacy, the addition of a drummer, cellist and keyboardist complicating many of the arrangements unnecessarily. I mean, I know Mathias Kunzli's percussion is technically better than Spektor just wailing on her chair or piano with a drum stick, but there's something incredibly endearing and unique about the latter that's a shame to lose. Still, her band beats the hell out of an iPod.

Naturally, it's the songs that were written for this set-up that really shine. 'All The Rowboats', the stand-out track from this year's What We Saw From The Cheap Seats LP, delivers on the tantalising promise of Spektor's new, more expansive direction. It's a goddamn arena rock spectacular, complete with an uncharacteristically bombastic light show, and it's the absolute last thing you'd expect from this artist. At just 32, Spektor is already a veteran, but 'Rowboats' points towards a whole phase of her career. I hope she continues to explore it.

Somehow, there's time at the end of the night for an encore, and she closes with the excruciatingly beautiful 'Samson', performed sans band. We might have to wait a little longer for our next Regina Spektor show, but this is a hell of a note to leave us on.

Until she returns, of course, we'll always have our iPods.

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