NEW YORK — In every great endeavor, there is a point of no return -- a moment where you can either choose to press on, or peel off and fall by the wayside.
And that's kind of what happened during Regina Spektor's show at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night. Although standing in the audience for the singer's sold-out homecoming gig was by no means a Homeric effort, it was a pretty monumental undertaking. After all, she did play for almost three freaking hours.
The bail-out point occurred about two-thirds of the way through her sprawling 30-song set, as she was putting the final vocal flourishes (a series of yelped "C'mon, Daddy"s) on "Carbon Monoxide," one of a mere handful of tunes she played from her major-label debut, Soviet Kitsch (see "Regina Spektor Brings Her Soviet Kitsch To U.S. With A Hand From The Strokes").
As the final notes from her red grand piano faded out, there was a lusty round of applause, followed by an equally lusty silence ... since by this point the packed room at the Bowery was now about a third less packed. Spektor glanced up from her keys, paused for a minute to survey the room, and giggled to herself. Then she launched into another song.
She was probably giggling because at this point — roughly 11:45 p.m. — most of the industry-heavy crowd had fled, leaving only Spektor's extremely loyal (and extremely vocal) fans, many of whom were still clutching bouquets of flowers meant for their favorite Russian-born/Bronx-bred singer/songwriter.
And those fans were treated to quite a show, as Spektor drew heavily on material from her two previous albums — the self-released 11:11 and Songs — and from her days spent as a coffeehouse troubadour. The set offered an interesting glimpse into her evolution not only as a lyricist, but also as a musician — the older tunes tended to be either straight-ahead jazzbo patterings (the upright bass-supported "Rejazz," the a cappella opening number "Eight Miles High") or quirky spasms (the playful "Loveology," the boozy "Bartender"). A few of her older songs were given added backbone from her bassist and cellist, but too often Spektor was reduced to "girl-with-piano" status.
On newer tunes, though, she exuded a childlike energy, banging a drumstick on a stool to provide the backbeat for "Poor Little Rich Boy," sending her voice soaring on "The Ghost of Corporate Futures" and then nearly disappearing behind her microphone during "Ode to Divorce." Her playing, too, was dynamic and forceful, as she bashed the keys on a frantic version of "The Flowers." Perhaps the greatest compliment one could pay to Kitsch producers Gordon Raphael and Alan Bezozi was that they simply stayed out of the way.
And inevitably, comparisons were whispered among the members of the audience: Spektor is Tori Amos on the piano, Suzanne Vega in the pipes and Kate Bush all the way through.
Kind of like a 9-year-old chess champ, she leaves you befuddled, yet wanting to know more. And while many members of Wednesday night's audience did bail before things ended — many scratching their heads — you can bet that right now there's a whole lot of happy Spektor fans posting reviews of the show on blogs all across the world. As with all great endeavors, half the fun is living to tell the tale.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.