The closing date of Regina Spektor's European tour at the Cambridge Corn Exchange last Thursday was an event overshadowed by sad circumstances; her touring cellist Daniel Cho drowned in Lake Geneva, Switzerland on July 6, a day before the band's scheduled appearance at the Montreux Festival. After insisting that she still perform the festival set as a dedication to Cho, Spektor has gone on to display consummate professionalism in the face of such tragedy, continuing to fulfil all her remaining tour commitments. Describing Daniel as 'our cellist and our friend and an amazing, talented musician and human being', she spoke about the decision to continue performing at the close of her set last week: 'It's really great that you're here and that you can think about him. That's why we've been playing these shows in his memory, so that we can tell people about our amazing friend who's not here anymore'.
Regina's closing speech in Cambridge last Thursday was the first point in the show at which she chose to communicate to the packed Corn Exchange through a medium other than her music, navigating her 20-song set with the pace of a performer keen not to stray from what she does best. Indeed, during such a potentially sombre occasion it was her songs that conveyed best what mere words could not, a testament if any to Spektor's outstanding songwriting ability. Frequently drawing on material from her highly regarded 2009 LP Far, it was a set with few surprises that saw Regina focus on her core repertoire, beautifully crafted, piano-based songs often enhanced by accompanying violin and drums.
Initially steeling herself with expansive heavy-rocker 'Better' and upbeat numbers 'One More Time With Feeling' and 'Folding Chair', it was a good half-hour before Regina pulled back on the reigns with the more introverted narrative 'Blue Lips' and the poignant 'Laughing With', any perceived pessimism of each song almost instantly wiped clean away with quirky tracks 'On The Radio' and 'Dance Anthem Of The 80s'.
While it's often hard to judge occasions such as these on their own merits without taking into account the sentiments surrounding them, it was impossible not to admire Spektor's astonishing talent as a performer. Her voice, the most obvious distinguishing feature of her music as many would testify, is nothing short of captivating. Utterly unique in timbre and spotless in intonation, Spektor utilises her vocal cords as an instrument in their own right, allowing remarkable variations in character, showcasing mischief in 'That Time', romantic surrender in 'Samson' and wistful sincerity in 'Us'.
While demonstrating such stunning vocal control she does well not to let slip her considerable talents as an instrumentalist, proving herself on the guitar as well as the piano, the place where her hands clearly feel at home, drawing a wide range of sounds from her Steinway, from the tender to the ominous. Ultimately, witnessing her unspoken rapport with her fellow musicians made it all the more moving to remember the tragic passing of their colleague, his seat and stand still set up alongside violinist K Ishibashi.
Ultimately, the concert proved to be a wonderful testimonial to Daniel Cho. It was a passionate tribute from three friends through the medium of Spektor's beautiful back-catalogue, a credit to her decision to continue touring in the wake of such a terrible event. After closing with fan-favourite 'Fidelity' Regina bade a temporary farewell to her understanding audience: 'I hope I'll see you next time in better days'. Showing a deep commitment to her friends, her fans and her art, there can surely be no doubt that whether these better days arrive sooner or later, they'll be worth sticking around for.
Donations can be made to Daniel Cho's memorial fund here: