Veritas Est Rock

Paul Karner

The unabashed roars of the crowd at Madison’s Majestic Theatre seemed almost a bit unwarranted as Regina Spektor took the stage Tuesday night. Just over five feet tall, the anti-folk princess smiled as she silenced the unruly audience with an a cappella rendition of her song “Eight Miles High” from her 2002 album “Songs.”
Sporting a glittery pink belt and red suede boots, Spektor took to her piano with the command of a veteran performer-a testament to her years of classical training-without losing a bit of her cute down-to-earth persona.
The audience was all starry-eyed as they echoed each of her smiles and giggles almost to the point of absurdity.
Still, it was hard to resist the charm of the Russian-born piano virtuoso tossing pretension to the wind with her simple songs and sweet nuances.
Her performance of “Poor Little Rich Boy,” in which she played piano with her left hand and banged out the beat on a chair next to her, was a remarkable moment in the set. She picked up her guitar and started to smile as she strummed. “If I keep a straight face you won’t realize I suck at guitar,” she said.
Regina has long been known for her vocal acrobatics, which were nonetheless extraordinary in her live show. Mixed into her sweet melodies were hiccups and stray falsetto notes-much akin to artists like Bj”rk and Tori Amos. The solo portion of the set laid bare much of Regina’s subtle quirks, allowing her playfully fluent musical language to stretch its arms.
For the second half of the set Regina was joined by her band-a homely group of backup musicians that seemed to drown out more than they added. While certain songs-like the deep looming “Aprs Moi” and the schizophrenic rant titled “***”-deserved the added oomph of the band, much of Regina’s characteristic charm seemed to take a back seat to the spectacle of the live show.
Many of the songs Tuesday night came from Regina’s new album “Begin to Hope” (2006, Sire)-a record that contains some of the singer-songwriter’s most mature songs to date.
Her seemingly reckless abandon with regards to sounding clean and polished takes shape in a much more purposeful way on “Hope.” Her tendency to move through different musical styles has become much more focused and apparent than her previous recordings.
Spektor returned to the stage for what became a 20-minute encore without the band as if to bring the audience back into her quaint little musical world. With the houselights up for the majority of the show, and Regina’s piano set right at the tip of the stage, there was a feeling of sincerity and intimacy that even the dancing drunks seemed to recognize.