Regina Spektor, Royal Albert Hall, London

3.00

 

Throughout her career, Regina Spektor has been dogged by people moaning that she's too 'kooky' and 'quirky' – but there's no pleasing some, and I'm afraid now I'm going to complain that she's not enough of either.

Or at least, her show in the grand old Albert Hall – where she's clearly totally psyched to be – didn't much reflect the spikier, fiercely inventive side of the Russian-American singer-songwriter's six-album output, or it's, yes, kookier, moments. Instead we got a lot of smoothed out and pumped up pop songs, Spektor belting out the vocals, hammering the piano, while big drum beats took it almost to eighties power balladry. Of course, such sweeping splendour suits this stage, which is maybe not the place for burping, hiccuping, beat-boxing clatter...

The adoring crowd doesn’t seem to mind a jot. “Turn round, I wanna see your face!” begs one man. Sitting perhaps two seats in front of him, I share his frustration – it's an unfortunate truth that a gig at a grand piano involves turning your back on vast swathes of audience. Spektor seems genuinely mortified - “trust me, I'm not shunning you” - and is one of the warmest performers you're likely to encounter (unless she was pulling faces about us the whole time; I've no way of knowing).

We do still hear an impressive range of her vocal talents tonight. Forget your traditional poppy 'ooh's; she warps any vowel sound going, be it repeated “eeeee”s on 'Eet' or the staccato “a-a-a”s of 'Dance Anthem of the 80's', the daffy yelpy accents of 'Oh Marcello' or the “she-eeeeee” stretched like toffee on 'Sailor Song'.

The latter also has her singing “Mary Anne's a bitch” with great relish, but mostly she plays nice, and it's a romantic set with sentimental strings. That said, her idiosyncratic lyrics are hardly Hallmark: “You taste like birthday/You look like New Years” she warbles on 'The Party', while the popular 'Us' reaches a crescendo on the lines “They made a statue of us/Our noses have begun to rust”. The evening is largely drawn from new album What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, but Spektor saves favourites from 2006's Begin to Hope for the encore, the sprightly 'Fidelity' and 'Hotel Song', and 'Samson', which showcases the beauty of her voice as she sends pure high notes into the rafters with ease.

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