Its 33 years since I was woken up by my radio alarm clock to the sound of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, at the time a completely different sound to anything else around and, coupled with seeing the duo on Top Of The Pops, pretty mind blowing.
Tonight Sparks are at the Ritz in Manchester touring what is their 23rd studio album Hippopotamus, looking not that much different from that first tv appearance.
True Russell Mael’s curly perm has disappeared but other than that nothing much has changed, certainly not Ron’s deadpan facial expression. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the crowd, as despite Sparks keeping up to date with current music trends through collaborations with Giorgio Moroder and Franz Ferdinand, and their much publicised friendship with Morrissey most tonight’s audience would have bought that ground breaking single first time around.
Regardless of age everyone here tonight is looking for a good time and Sparks certainly deliver on that front. Kicking off with What The Hell Is It This Time from the new album, before going straight into Propaganda the title track from their 1974 album with both tracks sounding as fresh and current as each other.
The set list is 19 songs long and with 7 coming from the new Hippopotamus album that meant there was plenty of variety as Sparks plundered their classic back list. Highlights from Hippopotamus were the haunting Edith Piaf(said it better than me) with some beautiful piano playing from Ron, the light hearted Giddy, Giddy and the wonderfully eccentric Scandinavian Design, a song about furniture!
Of course it was the old hits that most people had come for and Sparks didn’t disappoint with Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth, Number One Song In Heaven and of course This Town Ain’t Big Enough which was pretty close to the original (no messing around with different interpretations!) and still sent a shiver down my spine, what a fantastic voice Russell Mael has.
We got 2 encores, the Franz Ferdinand collaboration Johnny Delusional and then another classic from The Kimono My House album, Amateur Hour before it was time for an ecstatic crowd to fade into the night.
Sparks are an important band in musical history and with their new album Hippopotamus they have produced another relevant collection of songs to add to their catalogue and on top of that they are an ace live act!