Bonkers, bizarre, brilliant; and that was just the first song. A packed-out Civic Hall welcomed Sparks for what was the final headline show of a UK and European tour in support of The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte. Their critically acclaimed twenty-fifth studio album has continued a late career renaissance by making it three Top 10 albums in a row for the first time in their long history, following on from 2020’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip and 2017’s Hippopotamus. Not content to simply play the nostalgia card, the show was delicately balanced to include just the right number of new songs to sit alongside old favourites and deeper cuts. ‘So May We Start’ asked Russell Mael as he and Ron led the band into the song of the same name, asking for permission to entertain us for the next hour and forty minutes. And entertain they most certainly did.
Any concerns about the years taking the toll are quickly dispelled after the first few numbers. Despite his tendency towards falsetto Russell’s voice is holding up tremendously well, and he bounces and jumps around the stage during ‘Balls’ with the energy of someone half this age. Ron, naturally, is still simply Ron; delighting the audience with his deadpan delivery on ‘Shopping Mall of Love’ and sending them into delirium with his manic dancing during synth pop anthem ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’. Not bad for a pair of septuagenarians.
You get a sense that whilst some in the crowd have been with them for the long haul, there are many who have been drawn in over the years and that the duo are still winning new admirers even after all this time. And that they are still coming up with songs as good as ‘Nothing Is as Good as They Say It Is’ (said to be about a newborn baby determined to find a way back to the womb), and ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way’ speaks volumes to the Mael’s determination to keep pushing the band forwards and not simply looking over their shoulders.
By the time they reach ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’ the mood was one of joyous celebration that united everyone in appreciation of what we had just witnessed. ‘Gee, That Was Fun’, the closing number of the new album and the one which ended the main set, couldn’t have put it any better. And after the two song encore the pair took a lengthy curtain call, each making heartfelt speeches which only served to cement the bond that they so clearly have with their audience. A remarkable evening from start to finish, Sparks continue to stand alone in their uniqueness.
So May We Start
The Girl Is Crying in Her Latte
Angst in My Pants
When I’m With You
Nothing Is as Good as They Say It Is
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
Shopping Mall of Love
The Toughest Girl in Town
We Go Dancing
Music That You Can Dance To
When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”
The Number One Song in Heaven
This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us
Gee, That Was Fun
My Baby’s Taking Me Home