Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Features and More

Review: Regina Spektor unleashes beautiful clutter at Ruth Eckerd Hall

RECOMMENDED READING


By SEAN DALY

Times Pop Music Critic

CLEARWATER — Regina Spektor's head is a beautifully cluttered space, attic-packed with heart-squeezing lyricism, robust put-downs and more weird mouth noises than a happy newborn blowing bubbles. Vaudeville could have used a gal like her.

For comparison's sake, she is Fiona Apple with a whoopee cushion, Randy Newman without the jagged chip on the shoulder. But therein lies the love-hate factor with the Russian-born, NYC-raised talent. "Too many ideas" may sound unfair, but hey, when the raging eclecticism fits.

Muscularly pounding her piano in front of 1,486 at Ruth Eckerd Hall on Thursday, Spektor unloaded allll of her art-school quirks over 24 songs and 100 minutes. That's a whole lot of "Regenius," as her loyalists shouted, the twisted-cabaret ditties blurring into one another; she dueted with opening act, and husband, Jack "Only Son" Dishel but even that was strenuous.

When she calmed her ambitions, however, Spektor was nothing less than one of the best performers I've seen all year.

The 32-year-old longs to keep you off-balance, for better or worse. Backed by a three-piece band (drummer, cellist, keyboardist) that was set up at the back of the stage, she sat at a black baby grand toward the front of the stage. She was dressed in chunky black shoes, black leggings, a vintage blue-and-yellow dress; her brown hair was properly school-marmed.

Hundreds of small plastic sheets dangled above her, catching the reds and aquamarines of her subtle light show. And yet, for all the calming effects, for all the vibe of innocent concert pianist, Spektor was a full-contact showoff: yelping, yodeling, singing in Russian, the nationality of her musical parents. She doesn't just span octaves; at one point she mimicked the blurts of a marching band (The Party). She name-checked Guns N' Roses' November Rain. For the silly Sailor Song, the barstool refrain was a rousing "Marianne's a b----!"

You can't fault ambition, of course, and yet when Spektor reins in her ideas, she can be otherworldly. Sweeping breakup dirge How, from new album What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, was one of the most transcendent songs I've ever heard at Ruth Eckerd: It's string-laden and sad: "How can I forget your love? How can I never see you again?" And yet she still injected her curious touches: chirpy bird coos, Beatlesesque chord changes, a big-finish holler. It was different but sweet, and it was far more palatable than the song where she approximated what it sounds like to drown.

Spektor first vaulted into our cultural consciousness with the pop-orchestral contemplation of Us, a song used in the opening credits of anti-love story (500) Days of Summer. She opened her encore with that one — "They made a statue of us / And put it on a mountain top" — and it lovingly illustrated her gifts: a strong, swooping vocal, vaguely playful lyrics that illustrate the power of the underdog, be it a couple or an entire country.

Final song Samson ("You are my sweetest downfall") was just as crystalline and doubly cryptic, a shifting-personae tale as big as the Bible or as small as a couple dealing with mortality. And how about that: Spektor ended her show not with a holler but a knockout hush, all of her odd spirals forgiven just like that.

Sean Daly can be reached [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

Comments
Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

We want your news! Hometown Pasco is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well do...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Here's where to see Christmas lights in Tampa Bay

Here's where to see Christmas lights in Tampa Bay

Once the Thanksgiving leftovers are put away, you can stop grumbling about it being too early for Christmas lights and decorations. Let the grand illuminations begin! Despite our tropical climate, or maybe because of it, Tampa Bay goes all out when ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ is a sad waste of Denzel Washington

‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.’ is a sad waste of Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington’s labored portrayal of a shambling legal savant named Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the least of the movie’s worries. This is a story of shifting ethics that should be dramatic, but shaky logic prevents that from happening.Dan Gilroy’s f...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Plan your weekend: Indie shopping, Lindsey Stirling, ice skating, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Plan your weekend: Indie shopping, Lindsey Stirling, ice skating, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Plan your weekendShoppingBlack Friday: Avoid the madness of the malls at a variety of indie shopping experiences this weekend. Skatepark of Tampa has one of the best sneaker selections in Tampa Bay and free skating all day Friday to celebrate. They’l...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Trump pardons Thanksgiving turkeys and takes a shot at Obama

Trump pardons Thanksgiving turkeys and takes a shot at Obama

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wielded his pardon power Tuesday to spare a pair of turkeys from the Thanksgiving roaster, joking that he would also let last year’s turkey pardons stand despite his penchant for overturning Obama-era orders. In a ...
Published: 11/21/17
Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving can put a heavy burden on the host. We’ve assembled five appetizers that are quick and easy to prep. Some, like our risotto balls and goat-cheese figs, cater to vegetarian diets, so you can be sure to please all your guests. Even i...
Published: 11/21/17
‘Last Flag Flying’ is kind of a puzzling follow-up to 1973’s ‘The Last Detail’

‘Last Flag Flying’ is kind of a puzzling follow-up to 1973’s ‘The Last Detail’

Richard Linklater called 2016’s Everybody Wants Some!! a "spiritual sequel" to his last-century breakout Dazed and Confused. Different characters, same youthful, life-exploring vibe.Linklater’s latest, Last Flag Flying, can be considered a spiritual ...
Published: 11/21/17
Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Cranberry sauce has long been a fixture on the holiday table. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ocean Spray, the popular producer of cranberry sauce, cans about 70 million tins of the stuff a year, 85 percent of which gets sold between Thanksgiving a...
Published: 11/21/17
Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ has a Dia de los Muertos theme and is, well, lifeless

Disney-Pixar’s ‘Coco’ has a Dia de los Muertos theme and is, well, lifeless

Disney-Pixar’s Coco was more enjoyable three years ago when it was titled The Book of Life and came from Twentieth Century Fox.Both animated features spring from Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos celebration, the annual "day of the dead" when departed rela...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
Della Reese, of TV’s ‘Touched by an Angel,’ has died at 86

Della Reese, of TV’s ‘Touched by an Angel,’ has died at 86

LOS ANGELES — Della Reese, the actress and gospel-influenced singer who in middle age found her greatest fame as Tess, the wise angel in the long-running television drama "Touched by an Angel," has died at age 86. Reese’s co-star on the series, Roma ...
Published: 11/20/17