Since I only have the last 27 years of Sparks albums in my Record Cell, there were several songs played that I had never heard before. “Nicotina” from “Angst In My Pants” was one I recognized from the title. While I’ve never heard “Sparks In Outer Space” I did know “Popularity” from their wonderful “Plagiarism” album. That album had been a harbinger of this current duo tour in that it offered new arrangements of songs from their full career at that point. But the Maels have moved on much further than that 1997 album. The arrangement of “Popularity” this evening was nothing short of stunning! I simply must have a recording of this version with its incredible pulsing synthesizers. This was definitely the song of the evening that was the most transformed by the new duo arrangements and while none of the other material suffered for it, this song had the most “wow factor” from its new coat of sonic paint.
Now it was time for the one we were all waiting for. How fortunate for Sparks to have their signature hit be something as full-bodied and unique as “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us!” They’ll never know the indignity of feeling mortified that they have to trot out their #2 1974 UK hit like many other bands may have to endure. And we, having heard it, can rest assured that Russell certainly can still deliver the torrent of blinding wit that Ron concocted like a one man Gilbert + Sullivan festival on speed. The song positively bursts with a hyperkinetic melodic classicism that unfurls in the mind long after the last note has died. This concert has happened two weeks ago and I still can’t shake this song! And I wouldn’t want to. Thankfully, there are copies of “Kimono My House,” “Plagiarism,” and “Two Hands, One Mouth Live In Europe” to assuage my thirsts for the fizzing confection that remains so beguiling even after 39 years in the wild.
Having seen the “Two Hand, One Mouth Live In Europe” track listing on its release this summer, I grew anxious that “Suburban Homeboy,” my wife’s personal favorite [and certainly one of mine as well] would make the cut and remain in their set list. I need not have worried since the Russell joined Ron’s distinctly jaunty piano intro to deliver a classic reading of this most hilarious tune. Every time I hear it, my mind conjures up a $2,000,000 production number replete with chorus lines of synchronized lawn mowing suburbanites [all looking like Ron dressed in white] to accompany it. It’s fun singing along in my car when I hear it but can anything beat the thrill of Russell Mael 20 feet in front of us on stage, leading our section of the audience in a sing-along to this brilliant number? I say thee, nay! This event was truly one for The Monk’s Scroll of Life Accomplishments®.
Following that song, the modern classic “When Do I Get To Sing ‘My Way?'” from “Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins” reminded us that Sparks can’t be said to have a classic era in anything but timespan as they have made certain to keep the achievements coming. This was another Sinatra-referenced number from the pair who gave us “Something For the Girl With Everything” that coupled their perceptive wit to memorable, glorious melodies. With that the show was over and Ron and Russell left the stage to a roar of applause before returning for the encore in what seemed like less than a minute.
The pair then delivered a pair of hits from their seminal “No. 1 In Heaven” album that they recorded with Giorgio Moroder in 1979. “Tryouts For the Human Race” was followed by the sublime “The Humber One Song In Heaven.” Hearing Russell sing those heaven-sent “La-La’s” in the latter never fails to touch my heart and make me a little misty-eyed. Never moreso as when he’s singing it 20 feet in front of me! My mind reels when I think of the conception of such songs, but this band have been doing this caliber of work for over forty years now and they show no signs of stopping. Finally, as with the last “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour, they have written a new song to commemorate this latest tour. So they closed the evening with “The Revenge Of Two Hands, One Mouth” which takes a darker perspective than did the earlier theme song.
Afterward, Sparks took their bows to the enthusiastic audience. They seemed genuinely humbled by the fervor of the audience but considering that I can count the numbers of Sparks shows I’ve known about in the Southeast in 30+ years of casual but increasingly fervid fandom on the finger of one hand, therein lies a clue as to why. No one we talked to at the show [save for Murray Attaway] was a local. Most of us traveled from far and wide to converge on the Variety Playhouse. While it’s true that I could have seen Sparks just six miles from my home two days later, I was much more happy to travel to Atlanta to see them in this setting. When all was said and done, only a third of this tour’s songs were kept from the first leg of it. Having bought the live recording of the first leg of the tour from 2012 in Europe at the merch table, I can unequivocally state that the current leg is even better! Please do yourself a favor and catch Sparks while they’re still hot. Their “Seduction of Ingmar Bergman” film will doubtlessly keep them pre-occupied for the next year or two and who knows when they will next grace the world’s stages again following this year spent traveling the globe in their “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour.
Sparks | The Revenge of Two Hands, One Mouth World Tour 2013
Nov. 06 | Chicago, IL | Lincoln Hall
Nov. 07 | Chicago, IL | Lincoln Hall
Nov. 09 | Austin, TX | Fun Fun Fun Fest
Nov. 11 | Los Angeles, CA | Fonda Theatre
Nov. 22 | Bern, Switzerland | Saint Ghetto Festival
Nov. 24 | London, UK | Union Chapel
Nov. 25 | Glasgow, UK | Arches
Nov. 27 | Bristol, UK | Bristol Academy
Dec. 01 | London, UK | Union Chapel
Dec. 02 | London, UK | Union Chapel
Dec. 04 | Paris, France | Alhambra
Dec. 06 | Barcelona, Spain | Sala Razzmatazz
Dec. 07 | Madrid, Spain | Sala Copernico
Dec. 12 | Stockholm, Sweden | Sodra Teatern
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