Just before beginning her second song of the night, Regina Spektor looked down at her piano and stopped.
“I have a mind that’s sometimes fun to have, but sometimes not,” she explained to the crowd. “I just looked down at this keyboard and had no idea what to do. It’s just a lot of black and white. It’s very surreal.”
Spektor’s mind may have turned the keyboard into a mess of monochrome, but it’s this mind that we have to thank for the music and the stories she weaves.
With a sold-out Keller Auditorium as her audience, Spektor, joined by a small band of drums, keys and cello, took the night all to herself. With no opening act, Spektor filled a two-hour set with music spanning her entire career, finding time to play her latest record, Remember Us to Life, in full, and throw in a few covers as well.
Before the show began, the crowd was told that Spektor wanted to enforce a strict no photo or video policy. This allowed the audience to fully immerse themselves in the experience. With no electronics and no small screens lighting the darkness, the audience was swept up, listening intently as the songwriter brought vivid images and her unique sound to life with nothing but her voice and piano.
Before playing her song “Ballad of a Politician,” Spektor stopped to address the audience. She told the story of her family, who came to America from the Soviet Union as refugees. “I love this country for that,” she told us. “But we need to fight for refugees. We’re supposed to be saving the earth, and letting people in.” In light of our current administration and political climate, and in thanks to the America Spektor once knew, she dedicated the song to our country and to all refugees who simply seek to escape and find a new life.
Following this, Spektor abandoned her piano for something a bit different. With no backing music, Spektor sang her exclusively live track, “Silly Eye-Color Generalizations,” a cappella. Through the humorous and clever song, a spotlight was put on her voice, which carried itself on its own just as powerfully as any song before.
After rejoining her band and piano for “The Call,” “Eet” and a handful of other tracks spanning multiple records, Spektor again went back to a mic on the side of the stage, which now had a stand and sheet music accompanying it.
“We just figured this out in soundcheck,” she said. “Because we’re in Portland and we have some friends from Laika studios here with us tonight, I wanted to perform this special, just for you.”
On the soundtrack for the Oscar-nominated film Kubo and the Two Strings, Spektor provided her own cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Portland’s own Laika were the masterminds behind the film, and for this we were treated to a very special performance. Spektor’s band showed their full range as they executed the just-learned track, and Spektor once again proved her vocal chops, delivering the cover just as beautifully as it was recorded.
There really was no low point in the whole set. Spektor never let the crowd down. It was a night full of beauty captured in the full sound of a small band and one woman’s voice. And Spektor proved just why she is so highly regarded as a songwriter.
Though at times during the performance it may have seemed as if there was no mind quite like that of Regina Spektor’s, our biggest glimpse into the artist’s inner workings came when Spektor delivered her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2.”
As Cohen’s words came flowing through, one could find the similarities between Spektor’s own work and Cohen’s poetic legacy. Both artists boasted brilliant minds, ones that wove stories in song and provided beautifully vivid scenes through poetic verses.
With her art, Regina Spektor may be one of this generation's taps into the legacy that Leonard Cohen left behind. In her music, Regina Spektor creates true beauty that will last for years to come.