Beautifully Socially Awkward: Regina Spektor at the Greek

Regina Spektor

Jenny Denton

I bought tickets to this show months ago, which is ballsy for a freelancer especially since the show was on a Tuesday. I got unabashedly excited as the date neared and no worked reared its ugly but necessary head. But then my date moved to Cleveland the weekend before the show to do amazing things with her life so who can blame her for that bold and conquering decision.

As a socially awkward member of society, I can tell you it’s not easy to find someone to sit by you as you giddily sing along to lyrics that are mostly English, somewhat Russian, occasionally French and always girlie, especially when said member doesn’t really like to show her girlie side to most of the people she works with. Luckily, I met that lady at an impromptu toga party seven months ago and recently learned of her love of Regina Spektor. First world problem solved!

I’m a freak about being early. I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that I am frequently a day-player, and everyday at work is your resume for the next job. However, my companion-in-adventure on this school night was just getting off work, like most of the grown-ups that function in society, and was a few behind. So we decided to multi-task by catching up, forming a battle plan and having a cocktail simultaneously at her place.

We sat outside as she chain-smoked and I power-puffed my e-cig. I know. It looks stupid as hell but I like to keep one on me for when I hang out with my smoking friends to avoid the ever fateful “I’ll just have one of theirs.”

I filled her in on the latest exercising hobby (read the last article to update yourself, if need be). Eventually she realized we needed to get a move on if we were going to make the show, so she hopped in the shower as I put her roommate’s record player back together. Have I mentioned I love to build/ fix things when I have a few drinks in me?

Emo... don't let it happen to you

Emo… don’t let it happen to you

And then we had another while she put her face on… me trying to not look at my phone while she got pretty. For the record, she got way prettier than I did. Me: jeans, flip flops and a smudge of lipstick. Her: super cute skirt, 50’s top, wedges and a sassy new Brazlian blowout.

Finally we left, and by left, I mean we pulled out of her parking spot. And by parking spot I mean the semi red-curbed area that she had temporarily claimed.

When we got ourselves to the Greek, I could hear Small Town Moon playing, which is a truly heart-breaking song, even when heard from the parking lot. The acoustics at this venue are so astounding that even the valet guy could hear the girls weeping in the front row.

Of course, the song assists in that accomplishment as well. The lyrics are simple and to the point, almost to the extent of being repetitive but I can’t help but give Spektor a break. There’s a gorgeous melody to it and even when she goes out on one of her precious creative tangents it still adds a sweet atmosphere to the song itself. Call me a hippy or dainty if you want, but I like a lot. We can arm-wrestle our way through that debate later after I’ve had a shot of whiskey.

Parking was a lost cause but apparently Lia, my date, is no stranger to pretending to know her way around. She pulled into the “reserved for someone who is more important than you but not marked” spot, kept walking when the parking attendant started heading our way, laughed when they immediately gave up, and then beautifully balked at the beer prices as we marched our way onto the terrace where our seats were. This made up for any tardiness and also turned her into my heroine of PG-13 shenanigans.

I’ll digress for a second… If you are not familiar with Regina Spektor, please give her a listen. While primarily using the piano, cello and other stringed instruments as her front men of creativity, she astonishes her listeners with the occasional oddities such as beat-boxing, singing acapella, and mixes up her influential eras, be it the 60’s, 80’s or that time she only read the back of cereal boxes.

Her tempo changes have frequently surprised me as well as the fact that she doesn’t rely on the typical chord progressions. Spektor has a tendency to get a bit quirky in the middle of song and go on a peculiar tangent.

The first time I heard her do this, I honestly thought “Awe crap! Well lookey here, we have another female songwriter who wants to be weird.” I will tell you now that if Regina Spektor put out an album without doing this, I would tremendously miss it. To boot, she is one of the few female musicians I have stumbled across that doesn’t use her pretty face to build a career. Which she could. She sure is purdy in a Kristen Schaal had a baby with Miranda July but Tori Amos got to watch kind of way.

Once we shooed away the sorority house that was parked in our seats and settled in with our beers, we both lost our breath. Specktor has the voice you want to believe she has. Every note was crisp, clear, and full of emotion, praise and sorrow. She was full of rejoice and appreciation, humility and regret, dignity and demanding you to hear it all.

Even the guy in front of us who had obviously come with his girlfriend was moving and clapping and throwing his hairy beefy hands in the air by the end of the show. The poor girl behind us had detrimental case of the hiccups and somehow didn’t miss a beat as she sang along either.

Lia went to smoke during a less eventful song, and I went to pee (bladder of a fetus, check!). As I came back to the seats, looking confused while searching the crowd for my friend, the usher asks, “Are you a redhead?” A little lost in the hub-bub, I say “on my better days” and he tells me Lia is WAY over in the smoking section.

Because this is LA, that capitalization is intentional, our smoking sections are placed on the farthest point from any venue between the leper colony and the booth asking you to sign the Free Pussy Riot petition.

This is what pops up when you search “Fake Jazz”

As I cross the expanse of the smoking area, a gorgeous ballad floats between the trees and architecture, and I find her. I am thankful beyond words that I got to experience the Greek Theatre. It is a pristine example of how to build a facility that includes its geographical surroundings so that nature and a manmade structure work in harmony to create music that is flawless.

We proceed to take senior picture-esque photos amongst the light-entangled trees, making fun of everything, ourselves included, because we are ladies, and then rejoin the pile of spectators. As the lights dim, we know this is isn’t the last we’ll hear of Spektor this evening.

The lights come back up, and the entire crowd leans back in their seats and sweetly smiles as they wait for another round of eargasms. Us begins and it is one of my favorite songs. It has been brilliantly used in a soundtrack here and there. 500 Days of Summer being my top pick as far as those go, but I’m pretty sure the soundtrack played a big part in that. Pardon that tangent, but it’s worth mentioning.

The song itself has a rather quick tempo to it at the beginning, while the lyrics unhurriedly describe a fantasy world: Statues being hoisted, tourists blowing gum as they observe them, a den of thieves. This is where the rhythm becomes as silky smooth as a breath, and you barely notice it pick up.

I can’t pinpoint why this song is so high on the list, technically speaking, but I can tell you that this song is meant to be listened to with your eyes closed while you’re at work and need a break. While you’re sitting in your car catching your breath and getting your head back to a place when your mind makes more sense. Or as you’re driving down PCH, riding your bike, or drawing, or anything you need to do with the windows up or down. It is like a kiss on the forehead from yourself. Or ponies, unicorns or whatever else will make the rest of the world stop. Again, I will arm wrestle anyone who would like to balk. But, as far as attempting to describe the live performance of it goes… all I am left with is a really big dorky smile.

Her final chapter of the encore was Samson. Most fans, myself included, were introduced to Spektor with this particular rendition of the well-known fable. And it is the one that has left many of us hunched over our laptops afterwards looking up any of her other work we can get our ears on.

“And the bible didn’t mention us, not even once”

It’s beautifully written from the point of view of Samson’s lady, Delilah. At first glance, I know this sounds like a silly premise, but I think this was the most brilliant thing about it. A point of view that as far as I know hadn’t be explored musically before this creation. That truly is seems to be a rarity in the world of remakes, cover-songs, and remixes that we are stuck with. All the while, you feel more sorrow for the love she lost that the strength he asked her to trim away.

Don’t let me mislead you, though. She is no Adele or Taylor Swift. She has the phenomenal ability to write about sadness as well as silly, random, and happy moments, which also seems a rarity for the ladies creating music these days. Lord knows the shelves at Walmart are packed with enough music for the 15-year-olds to cry for help to. Sorry for the low blow but I’m sick of emo and fake jazz.

And that is what I adore about Regina Spektor. She takes something as easily over-looked as a fable, folding chairs, a funeral for someone you have never met, or a found wallet and turns it into another world full of things that are unconventional, oddly-timed and worth singing along to and maybe even connect to.

Even if you have beefy hands.

Set List