.. rightaway gained my affection on the first hearing. Along with songs from the same album, Sparks' newest Hello Young Lovers, all are quite catchy. It didn't take too much getting used to for me; I was rightaway absorbed into the music during the gig at Paradiso, Amsterdam, last Tuesday (21 Feb). Paradiso, which used to be a church, is not a very big concert venue; in the contrary, it's sort of snuggly. The standing space (ground floor) was full (of about 500 people), and there's no barricade between the stage and the floor (people at the first row could lean on the stage).
In the first half of the show, all Sparks band members wore identical black outfits. There's a screen (white between black transparant clothes) separating Ron & Russell Mael (brothers who are Sparks) from the rest of the band (two guitarists at the left side and a bassist & a drummer at the right). During the show, the white screen was actively used to display projected images that corresponded to the songs. The images also corresponded to the acts of Ron and Russell, i.e. Ron 'hitting' his image, Ron 'playing' an orgel on the screen, Ron & Russell standing 'in the rain'. There's really a lot of screenteraction going on.
Russell and Ron during the show in Amsterdam. Photo source: sparksfan.info
Now, the music. How shall I put it - it's all very energetic, I could even feel the vibe of every beat (although perhaps it had to do with the fact that I stood next to the speaker, 2nd row, far right). What amazed me the most is Russell's constant voice - how could he sing like that for (almost) two straight hours, so powerfully?! The atmosphere was quite pleasant, the crowd seemed to have fun; some danced and sang along. Although, I regret that some people lit up their cigarettes during songs. How distracting and inconsiderate.
The first act consisted of all songs from Hello Young Lovers: Dick Around, Perfume, The Very Next Fight, (Baby, Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?, Rock Rock Rock, Metaphor, Waterproof, Here Kitty, There's No Such Thing as Aliens and As I Sit to Play the Organ at the Notre Dame Cathedral (which was presented so grand when they purposedly lit up the old church windows of Paradiso). The lyrics were smart and witty, the music pleasant and humorous, and sounds almost pompous. For this album, Sparks applied drums/percussions and guitars, unlike for the previous album. I welcome this change very much: different, but still sounds 'sparky'.
For the second act, the screen was dismantled, and all personel wore semi-formal outfits (i.e. jacket and tie), performing older Sparks songs (from the '90s). I knew Sparks waaay too late (only about 4 years ago - while they've been making music since the early '70s), so I wasn't too familiar with most of the songs. I knew only the ones from Lil' Beethoven, which they presented at the end of the show (at around 23:30 - they started at about 21:00). All in all, we are very satisfied and couldn't stop talking about it on our way home (on our bikes, so it's more like yelling than talking). I was very lucky to have the chance to watch them LIVE! And of course, many thanks to Sybrand for introducing me to Sparks and getting me the tickets as my birthday present! (He said he has all Sparks albums, but mostly in vinyl.. well, I've got a lot of catching up to do!)
From the show in Sweden, the next day (same outfit, though!). Photo source: a link from Sparks forum
My graphic notes from the event are here and here.
Sparks site: http://allsparks.com/
More about Hello Young Lovers at BBC Music - including downloadable songs: Perfume and (Baby Baby) Can I Invade Your Country?
Ron and Russell Mael are joined on stage by Tammy Glover (Drums), Dean [Faith No More] Menta (Guitar), Josh Klinghoffer (guitars) and Steve [Red Kross] McDonald (Bass).
Top image: cover of Hello Young Lovers CD