Regina Spektor’s Santa Barbara debut last Wednesday at the Arlington Theatre captivated audiences with impeccable storytelling and whimsical piano playing. Although accompanied by a cellist, keyboardist, and drummer, Spektor, playing a beautiful Steinway grand piano, could have gotten away with performing the full set by herself. There were moments when she’d claim the stage as her own with her vocal prowess.
Live, her jazzy voice gave life to songs “Silly Eye-Color Generalizations” and “Après Moi.” Her lyrics did most of the talking, but her dedication to storytelling through body language was awe-inspiring. Her arms moved like a conductor’s hands with such elegance and purpose, while her facial expressions conveyed emotions that words fail to deliver.
The Russian-born singer shared a heartfelt message before playing the timely “Ballad of a Politician.” “As I’ve been traveling throughout our country, with every day I am more and more grateful I was able to come here with my family as a refugee,” she said. “It’s probably the only reason I’m here tonight playing for you. I believe in open doors, no ban, and no walls. I will work really hard to keep that door open for others.”
With her red-stained lips stretched in a smile from ear to ear, Spektor coyly curtsied to a standing ovation. For the encore, a woman boogied her way down the middle aisle, asking others to join her. After some hesitation, the audience stood up to dance, sing, and clap to “Fidelity.” And although the Arlington tends to be strict, I knew when I saw a security guard give the woman a playful smile and nod that, this time, he’d let it slide.