Apparently taking their cue from the album’s title, Sire/Warner Brothers have treated Regina Spektor’s major label debut, “Soviet Kitsch,” as if it were samizdat. Released with little fanfare in the fall, she was still able to draw respectable crowds for her two-night run of shows at the intimate Hotel Cafe.
Some of them probably were familiar from her earlier trip opening up for Kings of Leon or her appearance on the flip side of a Strokes single (“Poor Little Rich Boy,” performed Thursday night, is something of an answer to the Strokes’ sexual posturing). Whatever brought them, they were treated to a singer/songwriter of unique charm and talent.
Her 40-minute perf included literate, sharply drawn sketches of New York and one of the more affecting descriptions of loneliness written in quite some time (“Ode To Divorce”). In “The Flowers” and “Us,” she proffers canny extended metaphors about love in bohemia, set to piano-based tunes that recall Joni Mitchell, Leonard Bernstein and bits of pop music flitting through the songs like the cacophony of city life. A scatted “Hava Negila” flows into orgasmic moans, the coda from Patti Smith’s live version of “Gloria” finds it’s way onto “Rich Boy.” Her slight Russian accent (mostly noticeable around the long vowels) gives her voice an exotic appeal.
Like fellow New Yorker Nellie McKay, Spektor’s songs have a welcome sophistication, although she is a much less showy (in both senses of the word) performer.