Sparks at The Arches, Glasgow.
Gig review 25.11.2013
I will confess that Sparks touring didn't send me racing to buy a ticket, but my brother is a big fan of all this stuff and he did. So when he ended up being hospitalised and unable to use the ticket it fell to me. All that I really knew of Sparks was that as a young kid I found their performances on Top of the Pops funny, the lively wee one doing all the singing, the dour, tall one with the Hitler moustache staring blankly at the camera whilst playing keyboard. The only song I could sing you would be to ape the falsetto singing of "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us".
My brother though has kept closer tabs on them. He is a big fan of 80s electronic music, particularly anyone touched by Giorgio Moroder, as Sparks were in the late 70s, a move that finally pushed them into becoming an electronic duo. He recommended looking up later albums, such as Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins (1994). That then lead me to find the curio which is The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman (2009), a radio musical that relocates the Swedish director in Hollywood. The breadth of their music is pretty unique, from glam rock, to pop, to electronica and now musicals. I thought that they were always a duo of the brothers Ron and Russell Mael, but you can see on the TOTP footage above that they started out with drummers and guitarists too. I also thought that they were German or English, but although their influences are largely European and they spent a lot of their early career in England and Europe, they are from Los Angeles.
Listening to them in the car before seeing them live I was surprised to find that my kids liked them a lot. The repetitive, sometimes witty or acerbic lyrics seemed to strike a chord. My oldest son called them a modern version of Ivor Cutler, a longstanding favourite of my children. I think he might be on to something there.
Anyway, to The Arches on Monday night to see what a live show by Sparks turns out to be. Aged 65 and 68 years now, they look suspiciously similar to their appearance on footage from 40 years ago, particularly in singer Russell's jet black hair with Phil Oakey style asymmetrical cut. As they have been playing as Sparks since before my first birthday, it was not surprising that there was a mixture of ages amongst the crowd, which was pretty packed and plenty of them were singing along to all tunes.
|Sparks take to the stage at The Arches, Glasgow|
|Sparks - Ron is about to cut loose|