Good news and bad news at Regina Spektor, Concert No. 5 at the newly reopened Palace Theatre in downtown St. Paul.
The good news is that the place sounded wonderful on Sunday night for Spektor’s piano pop. You could hear the rich and deep tones of her Steinway grand, as well as the subtle cello and booming drums.
The bad news is that it took 1 hour and 40 minutes to get the 2,500 people into this sold-out show that didn’t have an opening act.
When I arrived at 7:15 p.m. for the 7:30 show, the lines stretched more than 50 yards – all the way down the block on W. 7th Place and then around the corner on St. Peter past the entrance to Meritage restaurant. There was a similarly long line – at least two people abreast -- in the other direction, down Wabasha.
As he looked at the slow moving lines, First Avenue general manager Nate Kranz insisted that his staff has to do better. They’ll meet about it on Monday.
Jam Productions co-founder Jerry Mickelson, who operates the Palace with First Avenue, called it growing pains. He suggested less aggressive pat downs for a strait-laced crowd like the one Spektor draws. He said things run more smoothly at three similarly styled theaters – general admission on the main floor, reserved seats in the balcony – that Jam runs in its home base of Chicago.
Spektor’s performance started about 8:10 p.m., just as the last of the concertgoers were entering the Palace.
At 37, Spektor has been popular for the past decade with a new generation of smart young women. Girlish screams followed nearly every one of the two-dozen songs she performed during an impressive 110-minute set.
After opening with her 2006 breakthrough tune “On the Radio,” Spektor delved deep into her 2016 album, “Remember Us to Life.” In fact, before the set was over, she did all 11 numbers from the disc.
She’s added some electronica elements, including on “Small Bill$” during which she stood up and delivered her vocals with a hip-hop cadence.
Of course, there was burbling electronica on the crowd-pleasing “You’ve Got the Time,” her theme song from the Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black” that was first heard in 2013.
Culled from her five major-label albums, Sunday’s repertoire showed that Spektor strikes a balance between simple and sophisticated. At times, her music is child-like, her voice girlish, her melodies catchy, and at times there are classical flourishes, Broadway influences and poetic lyrics with multiple layers of meaning.
Friendly but hardly indulgently chatty, Spektor got political for a moment. Having immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union at age 9, she explained, “The only reason I get to play these songs is I came to the United States as a refugee. I feel with all my heart that it’s important for us to stay loving and to fight to keep windows and doors open. No ban. No walls. No iron curtain.”
Then she sang her 2012 tune, “Ballad of a Politician” to great applause.
Spektor made her first two Twin Cities appearances in clubs, namely the Varsity Theater and the Myth nightclub. Then she graduated to the State Theatre. Having her back in the club-like setting of the Palace made two things clear: The sound at the Palace is superior to the State Theatre, and the crowd was more respectful and attentive than the one at the Myth in 2007. It was almost pin-drop silent when Spektor was singing on Sunday.
All that suggests that the Palace is the perfect place for Spektor. Now if they could just make entering the theater more efficient.