ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, LONDON
FRIDAY MARCH 21, 2003
If geeks had their own political party, they’d probably be able to organise their conferences around the same time and place as the next Sparks gig, thus ensuring a 100 per cent attendance. That’s how London’s Festival Hall feels tonight, anyway. Sparks fans make your average Trekkie look like Elvis?that’s young Elvis, of course: although even old, fat, shit Elvis wouldn’t look so bad beside a myopic thirty something in a lurid “Lights Out Ibiza” T-shirt. They’re the geekiest of geeks, bless ’em, but this?Salvador Dali goes pop?is their rock’n’roll.
It’s only been six months since the brothers Mael were last here in this same venue. Back then, in October 2002, their latest album?Lil’ Beethoven?wasn’t yet in the shops, so their decision to premiere it in its entirety with an accompanying visual feast of slide projections and minor costume changes, was bold to say the least. Consequently, that performance had a nervous, audacious energy about it that tonight’s virtual repeat can’t quite match, even if it’s a similarly wacky spectacle; Ron’s entry with 10-foot arm extensions for “How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?”, Russell’s leapfrogging between four different microphones during “My Baby’s Taking Me Home”, and those same vivid projections.
Yet for all Lil’ Beethoven’s cleverness, it’s the second half of the show?when Sparks play The Hits and the geeks get to dance their pants off?that counts. From the first throb of “The Number One Song In Heaven”, bodies and bad hair-dos of all shapes and sizes are a-bouncing, hands clapping above their heads “Radio Ga-Ga”-style to every metronomic beat. You could almost forget Sparks were ever a ‘rock’ band since this, ducky, is pure 21st-century gay disco. Even the once sombre “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” gets a hi-energy megamix makeover. Ron is doing his old “don’t look at me, I’m just a stuffed Hitler” routine of deadpan nonchalance. Russell is running on the spot like the happiest man on the planet. Just a pity it sounds horrible.
The geeks don’t care, though. They’re going bananas anyway so?ach!?when in Rome, eh? Here comes the opening cartoon gunshot of their ever magnificent glam-operetta “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us”. And it’s fantastic. Who but a real geek wouldn’t be cool enough to be going bananas with them?