Live at the O2 Academy Leeds 23rd May 2018
The O2 is very full tonight. Sparks are not a minor nostalgia cult; this is a band that have earned affection in many hearts. Underneath the radio recognition factor, their songs are strange, arch and carry cabaret stylings – reinforced by Russell’s theatrical presentation. The winning point has always been the chorus – repeat repeat repeat – with great hooks. Dick Around (all I do is dick around) is a particularly good example. The cabaret presence is strong in Suburban Homeboy which is practically a chanson. It reminds me of George Brassen or Jake Thackray gone upbeat. Beat It is sardonic and winning.
I don’t know if the Mael brothers are sensitive about their well-earned wrinkles, but they insist on photos being taken from the balcony not the pit. Looking round the grey but up-for-it audience, no-one is under any illusions they aren’t celebrating more than forty years of pop history. Much like Bowie they owe a lot to the styles of their times and, When Do I Get To Sing My Way owes it’s beats to the Pet Shop Boys, just as Number One Song In Heaven is in thrall to Hi-NRG. Tonight’s audience loves this one -
Ron gets up and walks to the front – great applause.
Takes off his tie – cheering.
Does an angular dance – crowd goes wild!
The mix lets the words be heard and the words are important. There are more songs you recognise from those words than you thought – so many radio plays. The evening is a celebration of the art of well-crafted pop. The band plays ninety minutes and the packed venue soaks them in. Russell enjoys it as much as the crowd, constantly in motion, gesticulating, clapping, dancing, posing and at the end he milks the applause, taking bows right to the very end before hugging Ron – “my big brother”.