19 December 2014

Orchestral Manoeuvres by Sparks

Sparks doing an orchestral version of Kimono My House to celebrate its fortieth birthday (!) was something that I was clearly going to be very keen to see. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, many other people thought the same thing and the Barbican website struggled to meet demand.

Having volunteered to get the tickets I sat busily, and increasingly desperately, refreshing the screen and trying to book seats only to find them gone when I moved to the next stage of the checkout. I thought that I would get no tickets at all but in a final act of desperation I went for three separate tickets in the Balcony, the top level of three, and managed to get them. I was hoping for better but going was far far better than not going so I was happy with that.

On the day there were a few spare seats in the Balcony, I hope that they had been bought by touts who had been unable to resell them, and I was able to swap B25 for A22 and a pretty good view of the stage.

Kimono My House was even better than I expected.

This was not Kimono My House performed by an orchestra (like Mantovani might have done) but a full orchestration of Kimono My House. The songs were familiar but noticeably different. Perhaps the most obvious example of this was the dark grinding coda given to Up Here In Heaven Without You.

Equator was my favourite track on the album and it was my favourite song on this night. It lent itself to extended play and that is what Sparks did, closing the first half of the set with the audience joyfully joining in with the chorus.

The second half was a greatest hits, many of which also featured in the Two Hands, One Mouth tours and it was nice to hear songs that had first been stripped to the bone then given full orchestral flesh. When Do I Get To Sing My Way was a particular favourite of mine (it always is) and it was good to here other regulars like Number One Song In Heaven and The Rhythm Thief get the orchestral treatment too. Let The Monkey Drive was a welcome surprise.

Constrained by the space and the demands of the music, there were fewer theatrics that usual though we did still get the Ron dance and Russell's unusual trousers (where does he buy them?). This show was all about the music and the music was brilliant. There was a long standing ovation at the end with Glyndebourne levels of applause.

Kimono My House may have been a risk, orchestrating a forty year old album for a relatively obscure band and putting it on in a large hall, but it was an undoubted triumph. So much so that they planned to do it all again the next day. And I'll be there for that too.

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