I have followed this woman’s every move since I first heard her song, “Apres Moi” in high school. At the time, I was discovering first traces of anxiety, and experiencing insomnia as a result. To my recollection, the stress that I felt in high school was brought on by efforts to be friends with people whom today I wouldn’t care to try to please, and the pressure of applying to college, but not having a choice of which college I ultimately attended.
I found two things most comforting in my late teen years, and those were my piano and the music that I had the agency of choosing to listen to. “Apres Moi” is a song whose story I believe reflects on Spektor’s experiences of moving to the United States when her parents escaped Russian anti-semitism. While I can’t relate to that particular experience, I can confidently assert that that song is about persistence in rough times, both physical and mental.
That song lived in my head as motivation for several challenges I faced through college, and sooner or later emerged from my own fingertips and throat. Once I learned the song, I played it repeatedly, belting the words so I could heed them myself.
And while, today, I’ve grown out of dependence on those lyrics and strong, harmonic minor chords, Spektor’s performance of “Apres Moi” Friday was especially significant. Spektor lived through a horrifying moment with her family, but she has risen to become a determined and talented woman with the utmost positive energy in her work.
Now, she and we collectively face the challenge of defending ourselves from the dollar sign-eyed actions of President Donald Trump. Spektor alluded to anger with our new president Friday after playing her song, “The Trapper and the Furrier.” This song addresses the unfair disconnect between the good and the villainous, as Spektor sings, “What a strange, strange world we live in/where the good are damned and the wicked forgiven.”
I had never listened to this track before her performance Friday night. I normally find it much harder to remember which songs are on concert set lists, and that’s usually because many artists’ songs blend together. Spektor doesn’t follow that routine. The only throughline in Friday night’s performance was her Steinway piano, which is the supporting role in all of Spektor’s music.
More importantly so, Spektor tells stories. She doesn’t stick to any one theme, whether it be love or politics. She tells stories of the little boy she saw crossing the street, of the flag waving half-mast or even an orange leaf on the ground. She describes to us all the things we’re feeling that we might not always be able to express. And she does so, so fluidly on-stage.
“What a strange, strange world we live in/those who don’t have lose, those who got get given,” are a few more words pulled from that same song, “The Trapper and the Furrier.” I don’t feel the need to explain that one. Spektor expressed her anger directly following the words, “More, more, more, more!” Those words stand alone at the end of the song, and as she sang them, her voice filled the room; it was almost like I could see the sound waves rapidly shoot from her throat and into the ceiling.
I had chills throughout most of the concert, and not because the hall was a little cold. But because this woman’s throat is a natural megaphone. She never misses a note, and tones erupt from her mouth like the purest butter.
Following “The Trapper and the Furrier,” a request for “Samson” was shouted down to Spektor from the balcony level. But Spektor apologized, saying “I just need a minute. I wrote this song years ago, and I just can’t believe it came true. It makes me so angry,” with a smile – albeit frustrated – across her face.
Of course, she didn’t honor any of the requests that were thrown her way, but Spektor did get around to playing all the audience favorites and requests. Those shouts and Spektor’s powerful, faster and louder songs are paradoxical to the Chicago Theatre atmosphere. I enjoyed being able to listen to the intermingling of classical music with a hint of rock, as I sat relaxed in my red velvet seat.
Spektor performed for about two hours, including four encore songs. This was my first time seeing her perform live, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, at which I feel my most powerful.