Concert Reviews

Regina Spektor at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre

It’s always a treat to see Regina Spektor live. She’s the type of performer who approaches a show like a concert pianist – all serious and professional. But she isn’t afraid of going a little off script. And neither is her audience.

A few songs into the set, she had a false start before her song “Better” and laughed it off, saying “That’s the wrong key. That’s fucked up!” And then said “Good thing this isn’t a classic recital. You’re allowed to fuck up in rock ‘n’ roll.”

Last Thursday night’s sold-out show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre was a 100-minute delight, complete with a string quartet that brought to life many songs from Regina Spektor’s latest album, Remember Us To Life. The band was rounded out with a drummer and keyboard player, while Regina spent the majority of the night on the Steinway grand piano.

The show featured a selection of songs from earlier albums, including crowd favourites “Hotel Song” and “Samson.” It was good to see her get up from the piano every few songs and stroll across the stage, abandoning the piano for a handheld microphone in songs like the newest single “Small Bill$” and “Better.”

As witnessed during previous Regina shows in Toronto, the audience has become rather vocal between songs. Mostly just pouring admiration towards her, making her blush. The audience had matured somewhat since her previous all-ages shows at The Sony Centre for Performing Arts about 4 years ago and The Sound Academy before that. Still, some annoying fan-girls in the row behind me insisted on singing along to every song. 

After “Ballad of a Politician,” which she introduced by saying she’s played this song a lot in the U.S. lately, there were a few comments referring to the upcoming U.S. election. “Never Trump! Never, ever, ever fucking Trump!” she responded. “We can’t even say ‘trump’ anymore. He’s ruined that word now forever!” But then reassured us not to worry and that he won’t win.

For the song “The Trapper and the Furrier,” Regina Spektor’s husband made a brief appearance at the back of the stage, doubling up on drums. The song finished triumphantly with the words “More, more, more, more!” after which there was a brief silence. Just as Regina was about to start the next song, the beautiful “Sellers of Flowers,” someone in the audience shouted out “More!” which halted her in her tracks and got a big chuckle from Regina and the crowd alike.

One of the highlights of the night for me was the song “Après Moi” from 2006’s Begin to Hope album. Hearing her perform this song live on a grand piano – especially the verse in her native Russian tongue – felt more visceral than ever, sending shivers down my spine.

About author

Roger Cullman is an award-winning photojournalist. His work has appeared in NOW Magazine, blogTO, Sports Illustrated and The Globe & Mail. Find and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @rogercullman and check out his website: rogercullman.com.