Regina Spektor: Stunning fusion of anti-folk dissonance and odd pop music
Hold on to the gorgeous oddness of her art and you’ve got songs you could easily live with for the rest of your life
Regina Spektor (file photograph): has allowed her influences to fall away, replacing them with distinctive and individualistic themes
Olympia Theatre, Dublin
From being something of an odd also-ran in New York’s so-called anti-folk sceneto being a particularly bright, distinctive and hip singer-songwriter (whose song You’ve Got Time title-themed Netflix’s well-received show, Orange is the New Black), Russian-born Regina Spektor lies at the midpoint between commercial acceptance (this show sold out weeks ago, and the venue was host to some of the most adoring fans this writer has seen in many years) and best-kept secret (who but the converted actually knows any of Spektor’s songs?).
Spektor’s family left the Soviet Union during the period of perestroika, landing in New York’s Bronx district in 1989. By her late teens she had formalised her songwriting (influenced by such diverse female tunesmiths as Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos and Joni Mitchell) and hooked into New York’s second coming as the hippest place on the planet.
Come 2006, or thereabouts, Spektor broke through cult obscurity to moderate wider appeal.
Judging by her absolutely wonderful performance in Dublin, you can see why she is no longer a cult figure and yet not wholly a mainstream artist. That she deftly positions herself between the two states isn’t surprising – dilute the singularity of what Spektor is/does and you’ll have a performer sounding like someone else. Hold on to the gorgeous oddness of her art and you’ve got songs you could easily live with for the rest of your life.
And the songs here really were something else; slowly but surely, Spektor has allowed her influences to fall away, replacing them with distinctive and individualistic themes (love, inevitably, but not as we usually hear it; bookish observations from an open, enquiring mind) and a musical terrain that takes in the melodic dissonance of anti-folk as much as beautifully perverse musical theatre. Russian influences are there, but how Spektor fuses them with odd pop music is something to behold.
Highlights were all over the place, but those who held out until the final encore were treated to a you-had-to-be-there, invincible version of Samson. Was that a tear I wiped away from my eye? Perhaps.