BERKELEY — Regina Spektor has flown under the radar for much of her 15-year career as a singer and songwriter.
Yes, she drew mainstream attention with her breakout album Begin to Hope in 2006 and again in 2009 with Far. But she’s never seen such popular attention since.
And that’s a shame because Spektor is probably among the most talented singer-songwriters and performers of this century, and that was evidenced by her standout performance at The Greek Theatre Friday night.
To her cult fans who showed up in droves to her Berkeley show, Spektor has remained as relevant and important in all the years since she’s faded from the mainstream’s attention.
The performance, without an opening act, started about a half hour late but initially looked to be a pleasant and mostly dry evening. That changed dramatically an hour into her performance when a steady downpour hit and not only drowned the audience but flooded the stage. Nevertheless, dedicated fans stuck it out to see her on her first tour following a three-year hiatus.
Spektor also gamely stuck out the wet and breezy weather despite wearing just a dress, tights and a scarf, telling the audience that she was starting to lose feeling in her fingers. She even poured water on her head as the downpour rainfall started.
“In solidarity!” she exclaimed.
Her performance is such a delight because it’s like a classical concert meshed with a more traditional pop show. Spektor’s classical training on piano is evident in her musicianship, hitting the difficult notes precisely with ease. And the strength, intonation and range of her voice is just as spectacular, a skill that not many pop singers possess in their live performance.
She delighted with her cult hits like “On the Radio,” “Eet,” and “Apres Moi,” played her most recent mainstream hit, “You’ve Got Time” the theme song from Orange is the New Black, and new tracks like “Bleeding Heart,” from her 2016 album, Remember Us to Life.
Spektor took time to make a political statement about the current administration’s stance on refugees. Spektor and her parents were themselves refugees from the former Soviet Union.
“We shouldn’t be banning. We shouldn’t be putting up walls,” she said, appropriately following up her political statement with the song “Ballad of a Politician.”
Spektor’s stage presence is very sweet and earnest, so it comes as somewhat of a surprise when she performs with such force. Maybe the only critique to be made of her performance Friday was that it was a little too precise, lacking in improvisation.
Spektor has actually been up to a lot lately. She has collaborated with Chance the Rapper, appeared on The Hamilton Mixtape and the soundtrack to Kubo and the Two Strings and was nominated for a Grammy for “You’ve Got Time.” Maybe all these projects will push Spektor back into the spotlight. Whatever she does, her fans from Friday’s Greek Theatre show will be following her faithfully for years to come.
Follow reporter Heather Ah San at Twitter.com/heathermalia.