Show Review: Regina Spektor at The Fox Oakland, 10/30/2009

by Marie Carney on November 1, 2009

Sadly, the best picture I could get from the back of the room

Sadly, the best picture I could get from the back of the room

For some reason I always forget how good Regina Spektor is, but when the lights went down in The Fox Theater and the crowd went insane I felt a surge of pure joy and anticipation just like a die-hard fan.  Then when Regina, beaming at the crowd’s welcome, started into “The Calculation” I started to feel tears well up.  I may be over emotional this week, but still, it was one of those perfect moments that you just knew everything was going to be wonderful, at least for the next hour and a half.

Of course, the evening didn’t start out that way.  We arrived at the Fox during opener Jupiter One’s first song and the place was already packed.  There were more people there then at the climax of the Mika show last weekend, so we decided to just take a spot in the back with a good view as opposed to fighting the crowds.  Jupiter One seemed popular with the people down front, but from where I was in the back all I could see/hear was your typical pop/rock band.  The only moment where they stood out was when the lead singer/guitarist pulled out a viola, but he only played it long enough to get a couple samples looped, then went back to the guitar.  At the end of their set it sounded like the crowd was into it, but it was hard to tell over the roar of looped samples ripping into my ears.  Whatever the audience’s reaction, the clapping was done before the samples finished their loud echos through the room.  They were an enthusiastic band but their energy didn’t really make it to the back of the room.

After the lackluster opening the time between bands verged on intolerable.  This has become my new pet peeve at shows, especially one like this where they had the opening band relocated to the corner of the stage for quick tear down so virtually nothing was being done to the stage after the first five minutes.  Luckily though once the music started it all was forgotten. 

When the show started Regina Spektor was center stage on piano, accompanied by violin, cello and drums.  The arrangements were interesting and beautiful.  I think the combination of all acoustic instrumentation and the acoustic vocals are what made the evening special.  Yes, I said acoustic vocals.  From what I could tell there were no effects on Regina’s voice, not even reverb, and I think it made her voice sound even better.  This is what live music should sound like; listening to someone create something special just from within themselves.  No help from electronics and technology, just amplification to bring that intense purity to so many people.  Or maybe it was so special by comparison to our new modern musical world of autotune and reverb.  A natural voice has become a bit of a spectacle, or oddity, albeit a welcome one.

 About halfway through the set the musicians left and Regina gave us a fun a capella song “Silly Eye Color Generalizations,” then she played a couple songs on guitar.  The variety was nice and when she went back to the piano, alone this time, it was just that much more exciting for it.  The following rendition of “Apres Moi” that happened back at the piano was wonderful.  With the strongly classically influenced piano melody and interesting vocals it was a special moment.  I found myself staring in wonder and as Regina sang the chorus it was apparent how thoroughly Regina hears the music in her mind.  It is like she can’t leave a part out, she hears everything at once.   Maybe this is the difference between watching a classically trained musician versus the usual garage band, but every second of Regina Spektor out classed anyone else I had seen this week (and that’s a lot!).  It may not have been the most fun show, but it was the most jaw-dropping and awe inspiring performance.

The audience was possibly even more excited about the show than me.  Regina kept thanking them for their extreme enthusiasm, though I think she deserved every second of it.  While waiting for her to come out for the encore I thought the building would come down from the stomping.  It was like an earthquake!  Then when Regina Spektor came out the cheer was so loud I thought my eardrums would explode.

 The encore began with the beautiful “Samson,” Regina alone on piano, and again, I felt the tears.  At that moment in time it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.  The audience was singing along earnestly and reverently and for a moment life was perfect and beautiful.  Isn’t that what music is for?  To take you to another place, a better place, if just for a moment.

Thank you Regina Spektor.

The Setlist:

The Calculation
Folding Chair
Ode to Divorce
Riot Gear
Laughing With
One More Time With Feeling
Two Birds
Blue Lips
On the Radio
Dance Anthem of the 80’s
Silly Eye-Color Generalizations (a capella)
Bobbing for Apples (guitar)
That Time (guitar)
Apres Moi (solo piano)
Poor Little Rich Boy
Human of the Year
Man of a Thousand Faces


Samson (solo piano)
Us (piano & strings)
Fidelity (full band)
Love, You’re a Whore  (strings & drums only)

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline Hernandez November 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm

I had the same tearful feelings too! Her voice just draws that out of you.


dustin November 2, 2009 at 2:53 pm

“After the lackluster opening the time between bands verged on intolerable.”

Yes, this is absolutely the way I feel as well. It was at least 35 minutes between Jupiter One and RS. Why exactly? All the instruments were set up, the board should have saved the levels, etc.

Great show though. Loved every second of it.


Gordon Elgart November 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm

This is basically bathroom and drink selling time. The venues want to have you there as long as possible so that you will buy more things! 30 minutes is the expected norm; anything over that starts to be way too much.


dustin November 2, 2009 at 3:18 pm

I don’t disagree with you. But, if you’re going to be more than 20 minutes, show a cool little flick or something. Bring on a Fox representative to talk about the venue, upcoming shows, etc.

And, this should ONLY be the norm for places that are selling out and if they have over 5,000 seats.


Marie Carney November 2, 2009 at 5:45 pm

Thanks for backing me up Dustin!
I know this is why venue’s do it, but at a show like Regina’s there was no surge to the bar (trust me, I was standing right next to it). People were there to see her, and didn’t want to lose their place and fight through the crowd, which is true for most of the shows I go to really.


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