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September 21, 2016

Regina Spektor plays the Calvin to the delight of fans

Black and white didn’t only sit on the piano keyboard. The lights were white swirls, her dress was black, her voice was pearly white and the audience was black silent.

Regina Spektor owned the room Monday, Oct. 12 at Northampton’s Calvin Theater with her delicate piano taps and enraptured fans.

A Soviet-born, American-raised pianist and songwriter, Regina Spektor is best known for her single “Fidelity.” The song appeared on her fourth full length album, “Begin To Hope,” in 2006, as well as the popular TV shows, “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Las Vegas” and “Veronica Mars.” The track, which she reportedly wrote while watching the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s “High Fidelity,” reached U.S. Billboard’s Hot 100.       

Following her 2009 release “Far,” Spektor is touring for the first time with accompaniment. She played alongside drummer MacKenzie Smith, cellist Dan Chandler and violinist, and opening act Jupiter One’s lead singer, Kay Ishibashi.

Jupiter One, led by Ishibashi, opened the night with unexpected energy. The band, which is named after the ship in “Lost in Space,” used violin, flute and moving baselines to paint a vibrant musical picture. And while the seats had not yet filled, those there to listen to Jupiter One got an opening act worthy of Spektor.

The band’s first hit, “Countdown” appeared on EA Sports’ Madden ’08. Their most recent single, “Flaming Arrow,” is playing on MTVU.

When Spektor at long last took to the stage, the theater fell silent as she delicately padded across the stage and took a seat at the grand piano. She opened her set with rigor playing an upbeat series of songs spanning different years and albums.

In between songs, Spektor did not need to speak loudly because the room remained almost entirely silent. Except for the few shouted offers of marriage, the audience was obviously there only to hear Regina Spektor flex her voice.

Sometimes an artist’s live performance sounds exactly and blandly like the recorded release they are playing. Usually, that sort of show isn’t unique. Regina Spektor, however, sounded just about the same as she did on “Far,” all the while managing to bring another dimension to her live performance. While she was quiet in transit from song to song, she played and sang with swing and verve.

After a handful of songs at the full piano, Spektor journeyed to the electric piano across the stage, only to find it noiseless. There was a pregnant pause as the speakers were as silent as the audience, before a sound technician walked on stage to fix the problem. He merely plugged a cord in and the room exploded with applause – hands clapping because they were about to hear Spektor’s hands clap the electric piano.

During the show, Spektor also slung a teal-green electric guitar over her shoulder. Her time spent at the electric piano and guitar was sans accompaniment, but the richness of her voice left nothing lacking.

Spektor’s hit “Fidelity” opened her encore, a five-song response to the audience’s cheers for more.

While the show was only two sets of musicians performing, they packed rock and roll, classical and jazz expertise in to create a moving three hours.

Daniel Herberholz can be reached at herberh@student.umass.edu.

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