SPARKS won new admirers and delighted diehards at last night’s (June 12) “conceptual show” at MORRISSEY’s MELTDOWN FESTIVAL.
It was easy to see why Mozzer’s such a fan; the band’s T-shirts read, “Let’s Art Rock”. Franz Ferdinand also owe an enormous debt to the well-travelled Californians’ sly lyrics and fiddly rhythms.
“We’re extremely happy to do a conceptual show like this one”, said Russel and Ron Mael during their performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall. “Thanks, Morrissey, for this one-time only performance occasion.” The show was divided into two disparate halves: “So you can compare and contrast”, chuckled the sprightly singer Russell, a 51-year-old energetic imp. The first half featured the classic 1974 album Kimono My House in its thrilling entirety (complete with bonus tracks: the singles’ B-sides). The second half was a stunning showcase of their latest and 19th album ‘Lil’ Beethoven’.
A wildly diverse audience roared its approval of punkish full-band versions of such eccentric greats as ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’ and ‘Amateur Hour’. While those breakthrough hits are immortal, it’s been a while since Sparks obsessives have witnessed bizarre mini-glam-operas like ‘Complaints’ or ‘Thank God It’s Not Christmas’. Joined by guitarists who’ve played with Faith No More, Daniel Lanois and Henry Rollins, and a Red Kross bassist, the Maels and geisha/percussionist Tammy Glover relished racing through these staccato, startling pop pearls on their 30th anniversary. When Russ threw his castanets into the crowd, there was a stampede to claim them.
For the second half a new cabaret-style set emerged. Russell changed from black-clad rocker to white-clad crooner. Lil’ Beethoven’, repetitive on record, proved to be a sensational, unique live event, with deadpan Ron donning comedy arm extensions, chasing films and slides across the room on ‘I Married Myself’, swanning across the stage with a Marilyn lookalike for ‘Ugly Guys With Beautiful Girls’. The ambition, grandeur and wit made the Pet Shops look paltry: and it was all achieved with brains, not budget. A standing ovation greeted the finale of an epic night. “Bravo!” was spelt out onscreen; no-one argued. For fans old and new, the spectacular Sparks flew.