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Sparks

Review: Sparks

Morrissey on guest list for 21-night run
17 May 08 - Sparks kicked off 21 nights in London with a set of typically tuneful, eccentric songs.

The Mael brothers played their 1972 debut Halfnelson in full and will follow it with their 19 other albums at the Islington Academy. They will then perform new album Exotic Creatures Of The Deep at Shepherds Bush Empire on 13 June.

Sparks singer Russell Mael explained the full extent of the residency to 6 Music.

"We will be performing all 21 of our albums, which will mean a grand total of over 250 songs or 4,825,273 notes," he said.

"We counted twice just to make sure," added keyboard player Ron Mael.

Ron also told 6 Music that long-time fan Morrissey will be going along to the residency on the night they play a song he got hold of in demo form.

Morrissey

"One of the songs that we're going to be doing is a very obscure one called Arts and Crafts Spectacular and it never was actually even released," said Ron. "In any case, Morrissey found out about that track and he was playing it before one of his concerts. So he's sort of threatened to maybe come the night that we do that song."

At the first night, Russell Mael introduced the the gig saying "okay my friends, number one". In contrast to Russell, his brother Ron was a severe, slightly scary presence on keyboards who didn't react to the chants of "Ron, Ron" from the crowd. This is a man who was banned from French TV for a year because his moustache used to resemble a German dictator's.

"You want a strong reaction - but that wasn't the strong reaction I wanted," said Ron.
"It will mean a grand total of over 250 songs or 4,825,273 notes."
Russell Mael

Halfnelson was never a hit but the duo's admirers at the first night sang along to Fa La Fa Lee and Big Bands. Their operatic synth-pop was filled out by a full band who provided rock grooves and churning rhythms.

As they prepared to launch into the high-pitched Biology 2, Russell said: "You didn't think I could do this one, did you?"

He added: "Most of these songs here have never been played live, it's a first not only for you but for us, too."

The final song from the album, (No More) Mr Nice Guys, was dedicated to their "good buddy" Todd Rundgren who produced the record and helped get it released. The band said the encore every night will feature one obscure song - and the opening show had an old b-side called England.

Halfnelson probably isn't a classic Sparks album - Russell thanked us for coming along to hear the "early obscure albums" - but over 50 minutes, the duo's well-rehearsed set suggested it's a record worth going back to. And Ron's awkward grimace during the loud cheering and applause at the end confirmed that he is the anti-Elton John.

A Sparks exhibition will also be staged at the Bodhi Gallery in London's Brick Lane from 19 May.

Andre Paine

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Comments so far

Colin London
Halfnelson is absolutely a classic album. Along with A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing, they are possibly their two most original and best releases. They certainly were hugely influential to me when I started a band in the mid 70's and have remained so to this day. Sad eh?

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