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Fri, Jun. 20th, 2008, 05:39 pm
Sparks 21 x 21

For the last month, Sparks played 21 shows in London, each show a complete run through of one of their albums, in chronological order. They began with their first album, originally released in 1971, Half Nelson on May 16th, and finished last weekend with their new record Exotic Creatures from the Deep. Twenty of the shows took place at the intimate Carling Academy in Islington, and the final show was at the Shepard's Bush Empire, debuting the new record and ending with a set requested by the fans. This adventure might seem crazy, grandiose, or silly but this is Sparks we're talking about; a band who has constantly changed it up and changed the rules as they went. Every record is different, and every one deserves attention.

Unlike some, I didn't buy a gold ticket and attend all 21 shows. I'm not sure how people could afford to do it or have the time. For my obsessiveness, I attended six shows: Kimono My House, Propaganda, Big Beat, Angst in my Pants, Hello Young Lovers, and Exotic Creatures from the Deep. I had no idea what to expect, and going in I slightly feared that the shows could be a bust as 21 shows in a month could take its toll on a pair of oldies like Ron and Russel Mael. However...In short, it was amazing!

Kimono was packed to the brim, you could hardly move. What a way to start a show with their biggest song "This Town Ain't Big Enough For the Both of Us." Any worries that Russel couldn't hit the high notes anymore were eased immediately. It was good to get the big hit everyone knows over with in a way and move on to the other great tracks; a chance to hears songs you'll only get one opportunity to hear. By night four, with Propaganda, the band really hit their stride, and the place went nuts from start to finish. "Reinforcements" was everything I wanted and they nailed the tough songs like "Bon Voyage." With a back up band of veterans like Steve McDonald from Redd Kross the band never missed a step (I only saw them screw up once, on a tough/rare b-side on Big Beat, which had crazy time changes) and that's saying something considering how many chord changes, lyrics and notes they had to remember. over 21 shows of never playing the same song twice.

Big Beat was great and under-appreciated in the Sparks cannon. Containing such classics as "Throw Her Away (And get a new one)" and "Big Boy," it was classic from start to finish. Angst in my Pants was a last minute decision for me to attend and i'm glad I did. "the Rise and Fall of Me" was probably my favorite performance of all the shows along with a couple others, and while they said they'd do it again on the final night, they didn't end up doing it, proving how unique each night was. With the final night in Islington, with Hello Young Lovers, the band received an ovation that easily lasted 10 minutes. People were so grateful that something like this could have taken place and knew it wouldn't happen again. Young Lovers was perfect evidence that little had changed in over thirty years. Easily one of their best records, Young Lovers was a treat to hear live with songs like "Dick Around" and "Waterproof" charging the room.

The final show was crammed with a few thousand fans. I was a little iffy on the new record because I felt it dragged a lot in places and lacked tempo, but seeing it live put that all to bed. "Lighten Up Morrissey" was amazing, and the dance moves for "She Got Me Pregnant" were unforgettable. The second set contained tracks throughout the spectrum of albums, with a horn section making "Get in the Swing" stand out and the amazing "Goofin' Off" making for the highlight of the show. Russel stated at one point that no other band would be dumb enough to try this, and he's right. I'm just glad I was there to witness it.

Fri, Jun. 20th, 2008 09:19 pm (UTC)

Those gigs sound great. I get the impression from you that the band REALLY put the time into pulling off such a daunting task.