Ron Stewart

11/11/2012 - Nashville, TN - Ryman Auditorium

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No one has written about Regina's Nashville concert last November. That hardly seems right, so I thought I'd de-lurk and share some random thoughts and memories about it.

In a word (an overused and cliched one, so sorry...), it was awesome. It was my first time seeing either the Ryman or Regina, but I hope it's not the last.

The Ryman is a neat place. It's an old church, with pews for seats, and you get a real sense of history when you walk in. My wife and I had great seats: second row (not counting the two temporary rows of folding chairs pushed right up to the stage), slightly left of center, and we could clearly see Regina's face as she performed. The sound was perfect, so kudos to all of faceless, nameless behind-the-scenes people who made that happen. The "floating sheets of paper" set decoration and lighting were ethereal and well-suited to her music. (My wife said it reminded her of the end of a graduation, when all the students toss their caps in the air, and that's a joyous image that fits well too.)

In some ways, it reminded me of a very different show. Last summer, we saw "Wicked" in New York City. While it may seem nonsensical to compare a Broadway show to a Regina Spektor concert, there were the common elements, namely, supremely talented performers on stage connecting with--really connecting with, not just going through the motions before--wildly appreciative audiences. In both venues, there was real magic.

The most educational moment of the night for me came after Jack Dishel's (Only Son) set, while we we were waiting, impatiently, for Regina to take the stage. I had never heard of Jack Dishel before. (I assumed he was some local NYC performer that she decided to support.) I was talking to my wife about how hard it must have been for him, performing for an audience that, while receptive and polite, was mostly just waiting for him to finish so the "real" show could start. A young woman sitting in the row ahead overheard, turned around, and said (nicely), "Yes, but he's her husband, so he wins in the end." Outwardly, I was cool, and thanked her for that new bit of information, Inwardly, things were different. "WHAT? When did that happen? Why wasn't I informed? Did I approve that?" Fortunately, the quality of Regina's writing doesn't appear to depend on her being miserable, as it seems to for so many other songwriters, so I hope they share a long and happy life together, and maybe even get a silver bullet trailer and have a baby boy...

Speaking of Jack Dishel, I don't remember much about his songs, but I do remember his good humor. He was alone on stage, but introduced his "band in these tough times"--a recording of a drummer and other musicians. He also told a story about once leading into a song with, "This song is about your stupid kids," and later having to reply to a letter from a concerned/mildly upset father about that comment. He then finished his story, said, "This song is about your ****ing kids," and started singing. He's an engaging performer, and I think I would have appreciated him more with a real band backing him.

I love how Regina started her performance. She strode purposefully to the front of the stage, grabbed the mike, bent over, stood up, and Bam!, started belting out "Ain't No Cover." It was mesmerizing... just that big voice and the insistent percussion of her tapping on the mike. It was like she was putting the audience on notice, "I'm gonna sing, you're going to listen, and you're going to love it!" (I don't really think she has sort of ego.) What a great start!

The funniest and most charming part happened a few songs into her set. She apologized to the half of the audience who sees only her back. But she said they weren't really missing much, and then gave a demonstration. She turned around in her seat, hunched over with her hands in playing position (looking sort of like kid pretending to be a T-Rex), closed her eyes, and made a goofy face. She also said, tongue-in-cheek, that they've discussed some solutions, like a glass piano or a rotating platform, adding that the worry with the latter is her throwing up after a few songs.

The show was peppered with the usual, "I love you, Regina!" and "I love you more!" shout-outs from the crowd. The best one was slightly more original. A guy shouted, "Hey Regina, remember that time?!" She gave him a coy smile, said, "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about," and went right into her next song.

Her band is excellent, and complemented her playing and singing very well. I liked how the drums helped her piano propel the more rhythmic songs and added a nice shimmer to that extended piano part near the end the "Firewood." Isn't that a perfect song? (And, as an aside, Mathias Kunzli has some of the coolest hair I've ever seen. Think weeping willow, only with more volume.) I also really liked the cello on "Ne Me Quitte Pas." It gave that song sort of a swing feel, rather than the Carribean feel of the album version.

I won't say much about her songs. You know the story already. The songs are great, and she sings and plays them beautifully and with great expression; they obviously mean a great deal to her. The crowd loved them, typically breaking into thunderous applause of recognition after just a few notes. Regina came across as very genuine and humble. She acted like she was happy to be there, and she seemed to appreciate the audience. It was a pleasure, and rare privilege, to hear musicians of that caliber at such close range.

The concert ended far too soon, even with the encore. I didn't realize until later, when I saw the set list, that she sang 25 songs.

In case you're interested, here are some links:

Cheers everyone! And, like everyone says, if you get a chance to see her, do it (even if you have to drive two hours to get there like we did). She is that good, and it's well worth it.


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