Over the past 15 years, the New York singer/pianist Regina Spektor has added any number of beautiful, clever, quirky compositions to the modern American songbook. But conscious of her Russian émigré status, she chose to open this concert with someone else’s words, reciting the Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus,” originally inspired by Jewish refugees arriving at Ellis Island and etched into the very fabric of the Statue of Liberty – “the mother of exiles” – as her act of defiance now that there is “another asshole in the White House”.
Playhouse, Edinburgh ****
However, Spektor is more of a lover than a fighter, as demonstrated by the joy which emanated from her fingertips over the next 90 minutes.
She is a fluid player and an effortlessly gymnastic singer, not in the melismatic Mariah vein, but in the variety of tones she switched between, a true interpreter of lyrics and emotions.
Her songs have a timeless quality, drawing on musical theatre, vaudeville traditions, classical music, pop, even a dash of new wave, many of them enhanced by the sensitive or characterful backing of her band on cello, drums, keyboards, and there was a musical journey to be enjoyed as, say, the melodramatic pounding of millennial confessional Tornadoland resolved into a bluegrass-inspired melody.
Spektor recalled her one previous Fringe experience, checking out a late night comedy show, but demonstrated comic timing of her own on Bobbing For Apples, one of a couple of impish, punky numbers she played on guitar.
But piano is her forte, whether delivering the simple romance of The Light, the more declamatory guttural theatrical flourishes of Apres Moi, the sheer humanity of Blue Lips or the ravishing solo encore Samson, after each of which she was doused in a “full on good vibes shower” from audience.