Regina Spektor is like a beautiful doll filled head to toe with broken shards of glass. Her presence and delivery is delightful, but her subject matter is barbed and unafraid.
This has been Spektor’s approach since emerging with 2001’s 11:11 and is fully realized in the live setting, as illustrated in her first live CD/DVD set, Live in London. The endearing musician is all smiles as she takes that stage at the famed Hammersmith Apollo Theatre during her Far Tour and emphatically takes the audience on a grand musical journey through much of her discography with a focus on compositions from the tour’s namesake, her 2009 release Far.
Footage from off of the stage gives credence to Spektor’s playful nature, but the performance brims with tangible tension, the songstress seated at her grand piano with the accompaniment of a four-piece string section, which includes Dan Cho, who drowned in Lake Geneva seven months after the performance.There is no denying that Spektor is the primary vessel for these compositions, banging out complex runs which a focus and grace that is infectious; she clearly feels the music, and draws the audience in with the tense “On the Radio,” the spry “The Calculation,” and brooding “Man with 1,000 Faces,” to name just a few of the highlights.
The footage is visually stunning, the contrast of lights and darks – Spektor’s spectral skin against the intense reds of her hair, in particular – combine with unusual camera angles and modest effects to produce unexpected, but ultra-welcome surprises. From close up shots of her meticulous hands to crowd shots exposing an audience that hangs on every word, this DVD feels like the viewer is in the action, enjoying a 360 degree view of a momentous occasion for Spektor, who enthusiastically details the project in the liner notes of the release.
Regina Spektor’s critical success is no fluke; she has the songs, and she knows how to deliver them from the stage. Live in London is a complete and worthy immersion in her wildly vivid world.
Live in London is out now on Sire.