21 June 2012

Sparks: Two Hands, One Mouth at Bush Hall

Somehow it is three years since I last saw Sparks live in concert.

That was when they played their then latest album, Exotic Creatures of the Night, on consecutive nights with different classic albums forming the second half of the set. I went to both nights.

The one and only reason that I have not seen them in concert since then is because they had not played a London concert since then. So when the Two Hands, One Mouth concert was announced I was quick off the block to get tickets. And so were many other loyal Sparks fans (London is very fond of Sparks) and it quickly sold out.

I would have gone whatever they played and in whatever format so their decision to perform as just a duet was just icing on an already exceedingly gooey cake.

Sparks fans are exceedingly keen, unlike rock fans who tend to stay in the local pub until the last moment, so even arriving at the venue half an hour or so before the doors opened there was already a substantial queue and I knew that I had no hope of being near the front, not that I ever expected that.

I went and got a veggie burger and chips from one of the many local fast food places, and that was definitely a mistake.

Once in I got to the usual front-left position, where Ron would be, the Ronald keyboard (and old pun that never fades) being bit of a clue here, and managed to shuffle myself between two tall ladies so that I had a good view of the stage over their shoulders and a reasonable view of the keyboard behind their heads. Being shorter than most you develop skills and tactics like that otherwise there would be no point in going to concerts.

Just after 8:30 the lights dimmed and Ron took the stage to play the solo piece Two Hands, One Mouth Overture that gave a taster of the delights to come.

Hints of favourites like This Town were wildly cheered.

Enter Russell stage right.

The contracts between the two is striking and deliberate. Ron in all black is silent and stationary whereas Russell gets away with green trousers and stripped tie, never ever stops moving, does the singing and provides some chat too.

What followed was a glorious trawl through their extensive back-catalogue that was fair to all periods. Each Sparks fan has their own favourites and my highlights from the evening included Metaphor (the opening number), My Baby's Taking Me Home, Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth, Suburban Homeboy and When Do I Get to Sing "My Way"?.

These are all very singable and bouncy songs that make extensive use of repetition of words and music.

The absence of a backing band did make a difference but this was not the minimalist sound that might have been expected due to the abilities of the keyboard to conjure almost any sound required including all the disco beats for No. 1 Song etc.

Ron and Russell played to the eager audience, which is much easier to do in an intimate space like the Bush Hall, and at times I thought that Russell had leant too far and was about to fall on top of me.

This reached its zenith in the clever finale where Russell went across to the keyboards and used one finger to carry on the beat thus freeing Ron to come front and centre to do his show-piece running dance to the traditional chant of "Ron. Ron. Ron.".

This was an wonderfully crafted show delivered with panache and fun. A truly excellent evening, as always from Sparks.

And the best bit is that I get to see them do it all again in October at the Barbican.

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