Sparks - The Arches, Glasgow, Mon 25 Nov 2013
Two-man show from art-pop maestros is an unbridled joy
Sparks have a knack for turning concepts associated with worthy rock authenticity – classic album shows, stripped-down sets – into art-pop magic. This two-man show begins with a brace of songs from 2002’s brilliant Lil’ Beethoven. ‘Your Call’s Very Important To Us. Please Hold.’ is reworked as a Russell Mael solo shot, his vocals looped up in real time. Enter Ron Mael, who pounds out the massive Chicago house piano riff of the magnificent ‘How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?’, the audience quickly picking up the refrain, ‘Practice, man, practice!’
Sparks are up there with Cole Porter and Leonard Cohen as the funniest men in pop, genuinely witty and humane. In lesser hands, extracts from an opera about Ingmar Bergman could be unbearably arch. The Brothers Mael manage to combine affectionate mockery of Bergman's miserablist persona with an affecting sense of existential dread.
From the tacky tiger glam of ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us’, to the hubristic synth-pop of ‘When Do I Get To Sing “My Way”?’, the show is an unbridled joy. The disco encore of ‘Number One Song In Heaven’ is utterly euphoric, Russell’s still-fabulous falsetto soaring over Ron’s trancey synth throb.