Something about not forgetting your first time, I suppose, but anyway, look, I was, before about 8.45 this evening, a Sparks virgin. There may have been others in the crowd. I don’t know. What I can tell you is about 9 50pm Ron Mael gets up from his keyboard and dances. He does so, let’s be truthful, with about as much grace as your grandad at a family wedding after a skin-full.
Now, being a Sparks virgin, I wasn’t aware of this. Most other people in the 3000 odd that made up the crowd in the new Civic Hall as was, appeared to be, meeting it with a kind of “here he is, doing his dance” shrug.
Welcome to Sparks, I guess.
Sparks were, let’s get this said from the off, brilliant here. Genuinely, if you’ll pardon the horrible pun, sparkling. Russell Mael, every inch the gregarious, energetic frontman, had asked “So, May We Start?” At the song of the same name, but what they deserve the most credit for is quite simple: around a month ago they released a new record. Six of the set is from it, the title track “The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte” is typical, in that it sounds like Sparks but sounds fresh. And more to the point, this is anything but a band resting on its laurels.
“Angst In My Pants” has a brilliant guitar solo from Evan Weiss – and the band members stood behind the brothers, dressed in black and in the shadows (literally and metaphorically) are all wonderful here – before they go back 50 years for “Beaver O’Lindy”, which by the way, doesn’t sound dated. It’s quite something.
Along the way, there are some clear standout moments. “Nothing Is As Good As They Say It Is” might well be the only song in recorded history about a baby of 22 hours old who has had enough, “Balls” doesn’t half sound like The Prodigy, and “Shopping Mall Of Love” is glorious, if only because of the deadpan delivery of the elder Mael.
“Bon Voyage” is big, brash pop music done right, and by the time they get to “When Do I Get To Sing My Way” the crowd – who had all been seated- can contain themselves no longer it seems.
Ron’s dance renders the rest of “Number One Song In Heaven” pointless as it would steal any show, then there’s the small matter of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us”. Somewhere in my collection, I have Faith No More doing it with the brothers, but it’s better here and “Gee, That Was Fun” was. Is. And probably always will be. Certainly, the smiling throng tells a story.
Those smiles don’t leave the crowds’ faces for “My Baby Is Taking Me Home” or “All That” either, and they’re probably still there now, indeed, there was a lovely atmosphere here throughout.
Russell Mael becomes a little emotional when he talks to the audience at the end. Nights like this, he reckons, give them power and confidence for the future, and so they should.
They are on their biggest-ever world tour, and this Indian summer, at what might have been the end of their career with the pair well into their 70s, is one they are clearly cherishing.
There is, obviously, no rule book in music anyway, but if there was one anywhere Sparks have just ripped it up into about a million pieces.
There won’t be another show quite like this, unless Sparks play it, of course.