Jack Dishel, the frontman for Only Son, stood alone and off-center on the State Theatre‘s stage last night. Playing songs mostly from his 2011 release, Searchlight, he began the show with the mellow “You Stayed at Home,” then addressed the crowd and truly exemplified this generation’s one man band: “I’d like to introduce to you my band; it’s my iPod.” Cue adorable smirk.
Jack + iPod translated well with his more introspective Elliott Smith reminiscent songs. The eerie “It’s A Boy” was perfectly spooky performed solo; the chilling harmonies from the iPod rather than back-up singers appealed to the removed nature of the song’s overt theme of genetic modification. However, it was a little strange to hear his upbeat songs performed in this setting. Surfer rock-inspired tunes “Pop the Reins” and “Stamp Your Name On It” felt odd, if only because the pop-punk choruses (“Everybody gets a shot tonight!”/”Stamp your name on it!”) invoke band and crowd singalongs but were denied both in this setting.
Despite some of the songs getting lost in translation from album to stage, Jack’s crowdwork was spot on. He appealed to Mainers’ intense state pride when he confessed, “I stepped outside today and took a breath and realized I’ve been breathing really shitty air my whole life.” Damn straight, pal. It’s moments like these when you remember he’s the anti-folk indie sensation of Moldy Peaches fame—the man can’t NOT be adorable. And when his soft-pop voice sings “It’s magic ’til you know how it works/Nobody wants to see how you do it/The secret is all that you’re worth” in the McCartney-Lennon evocative “Magic,” it’s easy to appreciate Jack Dishel for the skilled songwriter that he is.
Dishel seemed more than happy to make way for Regina Spektor, which really isn’t a big surprise, seeing as they’re married. As rumored to be, the quirky songstress was fantastic live. Opening with the a capella “Ain’t No Cover,” Spektor’s eccentric charisma was evident as she nearly croaked the last lines of the song “till the day I die,” as if grappling with her own last words. That same eccentricity reared its head sporadically throughout the show, particularly when she made exaggerated dolphin noises during “Folding Chair.”
She sat at her piano bathed in the spotlight and surrounded by delicate white squares hung from the ceiling, giving the show an intensely intimate feeling despite the State’s 1,800 seats. She incorporated songs from her recent album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, but delighted the crowd with new and old favorites: the appropiately named radio single “On the Radio,” the catchy “Dance Anthem of the 80′s,” and the heartbreaking “How.” The most fascinating thing about Regina Spektor’s live performance is her ability not just to sing the songs with an awe-inspiring command, but to make the audience really feel the songs as well. It’s hard not to react. This writer may or may not have teared up a few times during “How.” And by teared up, I mean my eyes were swollen this morning from crying.
Like her husband, Ms. Spektor was adorable on stage, repeatedly and softly thanking the audience through an uncontainable and genuine smile. She seemed particularly happy to invite Dishel back on stage to sing alongside him on a song they cowrote, “Call Them Brothers.” His soft voice harmonized beautifully with Regina’s for a haunting performance. To everyone still mourning the breakup of Zooey Deschanel and Ben Gibbard, I think Regina and Jack may just be your next favorite quirky indie darling couple.
After her 21 song set she returned, still smiling, to cheering and mostly female fans, for a four song encore. It was almost impossible to resist singing along to radio hits “Us” and “Fidelity.” She concluded the show with the piano melody driven “Samson,” a song I’ve always thought of as a breakup lullaby. It was the perfect bittersweet goodnight to her adoring fans.