As Philadelphia prepared itself for Winter Storm Stella, myself and several thousand other Philadelphians were making our way in the opposite direction; not towards our homes and apartments, but instead towards the city, for the Regina Spektor show at the Fillmore in Philadelphia. Spektor, the 37 year old Russian American pianist and singer-songwriter comes hot off the heels of her critically acclaimed 7th studio album, Remember Us to Life. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show itself, the crowd, the setlist, or anything else about the show. As a fan of Spektor since my introduction to her album Begin to Hope occurred a few years ago (it remains to this day to be one of the few albums I own a CD copy of and keep in my car, just in case), I was coming into the show slightly unsure of what I would actually experience; her career has been a steady stream of hits from 2009’s sometimes solemn Far and 2012’s wonderfully quirky What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, and as such, it made the sample of songs she could have drawn from vast and unpredictable.
Spektor took the stage a few minutes after 8 PM to a packed house and a long, loud cheer. Her fun and very personal onstage demeanor was immediately obvious from the first note of the first song, “On the Radio”. She thanked Philadelphia and the fans after almost every single song for the first five of the set, which only made the crowd cheer louder every time. That seemed to be the theme of the night – Spektor knows her way around a crowd and knows how to make everyone have fun, even if they may not know every single word to every single song (like myself, when she played anything from Soviet Kitsch or earlier).
The crowd itself was unique; having viewed Spektor as an indie pop star, known in similar circles to the comparable pianist and singer-songwriter Ben Folds, I assumed there would be a decent crowd of hardcore fans, along with a few casual fans to make for a decent crowd and a decent night. What I found instead was a very well-rehearsed and knowledgeable crowd in terms of Spektor’s music, singing along with most every song. It was a type of crowd I’d say is rarely seen at some shows, a crowd that was able to get excited over more than just the radio hits, which was certainly a good sign from the beginning of the show for how the rest of the show would go. We were in for a good time.
The setlist was pleasantly set up for fans such as myself, those who had become invested in Spektor from the mid-2000s and had also recently experienced her new album. She played every track from the standard version of her new album as well as roughly half of my aforementioned personal favorite album, Begin to Hope. The songs were evenly spaced out so that those unfamiliar with the first album could expect an older hit to come relatively soon – truly a fan service. Too often I see artists touring a new album expect for their crowd to already be entirely familiar with the new album, so when artists approach a new album in a live setting like Spektor approached hers, fans appreciate it.
The high points of the show were very much pronounced and isolated in the set, however, with a personal favorite, “Apres Moi”, breaking up the first half of the show as Spektor began a run of songs alone on stage, with no backing band. She continued the solo portion of the show for several songs before reintroducing the band, eventually concluding the main portion of the show with “Us”. The encore, as expected, was easily the best portion of the show, with Spektor stacking some fan favorites such as “Fidelity” and “Hotel Song”, and of course, concluding the show with arguably her biggest and most emotional song, “Samson”.
Regina Spektor is truly an underrated and way too often overlooked artist, and maybe in some other universe that absolutely should exist, she’s selling out the Wells Fargo Center. However, I don’t think that’s what Regina Spektor would even want – the intimate, personal atmosphere of the concert at the Fillmore Philadelphia truly made it a unique experience. Spektor’s live show is a performance anyone could enjoy and appreciate, from the most serious, lifelong fans to people who have no idea who she is. If I learned anything from this show, it’s that Regina Spektor loves Philadelphia – and Philadelphia loves Regina Spektor.