sparks. royal albert hall.

Sparks at Royal Albert Hall

Before we get to Sparks’ spectacular two-night run at the Royal Albert Hall, let’s rewind to approximately 14 years ago: to the time I first came across the music video for the 1979 Sparks song ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’. Now, for a bit of context, this song is part of the Giorgio Moroder-produced album of the same name and is a disco-fueled, electronic pop joyride that sounds like it comes from space. It’s pretty captivating. Yet, apart from the music, something else got my attention.

Here is what I saw:

Understandably, seeing Sparks for the first time was a bit of a shock to the system. With their quirky marriage of other-worldly music and bizarre visuals, I felt like I was watching a band from another planet. From then, I was hooked. The images of Russell Mael’s voluminous hair and Ron Mael’s moustache were imprinted onto my brain at that very moment.

However, in the majority of the years that followed, I didn’t do a proper deep dive into their (very) extensive back catalogue. I am not sure why, but at this time I preferred to listen to the same 3 songs and leave it at that. Maybe the idea of delving into almost 40 years of one band’s catalogue seemed like too big of an undertaking during my teens. However, this changed when Edgar Wright, one of my favourite filmmakers, created a documentary film in 2021 putting the Mael brothers front and centre – telling their story on the big- and small screen for the first time.

I fondly remember the bus ride home from the cinema. There, I spent the entirety of the journey – and an awful lot of the days that followed – listening to every one of their 25+ albums on Spotify. And from that moment I decided I was going to see them perform live as soon as I could. This was one spectacle I had to experience in person.

Fast forward one year and there I was. Sitting in the Royal Albert Hall with my family in tow, waiting for the show to start.

So May We Start?

When Ron and Russell Mael first ascended onto the stage, there was an explosion of applause and screams. This was a venue full of Sparks enthusiasts – and we all knew we were in for a treat. Sparks began with ‘So May We Start’ (very apt for an opener) from their 2021 film Annette. Ron sat at his keyboard (very on brand) and Russell was jumping around the stage (also very on brand).

Then, in the first bit of audience interaction that evening, Russell revealed how performing at the Royal Albert Hall has been a dream of theirs since their brief London-based stint in the 70s. It was enough to pluck at the heartstrings and this led to another thunderous round of applause, cheers and grateful spirit. Look at us now, who would have thought?

They proceeded to perform a few songs from their newest LP, The Girl is Crying in Her Latte. They all sounded brilliant live, especially the title track and ‘Nothing is as Good as They Say It Is’. The latter is a song about a baby who had been born just under a day ago and has already had enough of the world – a good narrative hook as any.

Then, we got to hear a couple of the hits, including a couple of my favourite Sparks songs. ‘Angst in My Pants’ and ‘Eaten by the Monster of Love’ were a delight live, with their jubilant arrangements and cheeky – and sometimes double-edged – lyrics, all made the more fun by the infectious energy displayed by Russell’s impeccable stagecraft. ‘When I’m With You’ soon followed, with its catchy hooks and rollercoaster of emotions from love to panic. And then we heard another fan favourite: ‘Balls’ (known for its brilliant lyrics, including ‘all you need are balls’ as an example). The appearance of this song on the setlist made the crowd erupt again.  A definite highlight.

Whereas the first half of the set included big sprinklings of the newest album, the second half predominantly featured hits. ‘When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”?’ was beautiful live, and it got a lot of the crowd up and dancing. Then, the bops ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ and ‘This Town Aint Big Enough for the Both of Us’ continued the party. Especially when Ron Mael stood up and did his famous dance (you can find it online – it’s a delight).

And to conclude, the set drew to a close with an encore showcasing some of the recent fan favourites: ‘My Baby’s Taking Me Home’ (a song that only has one lyric, repeated throughout AND WORKS) and ‘All That’ (a lovely from their second-most recent LP).

The lowdown…

Even after being active for five decades, Sparks are a band at the top of their game. They gave the audience a thrilling, endearing and fanfare-fueled evening of entertainment and brilliant music. I was on cloud nine by the end of the night, and I certainly wasn’t alone. If you want to let loose and have a great time, then this is the gig for you. I cannot wait to see them live again.

Thanks for reading!

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