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Sparks – Two Hands, One Mouth Tour – Brighton Dome 25/10/12

November 1, 2012

 

Despite having been around for over 40 years, Sparks aren’t slowing down or shying away from trying new things. It would be all too easy to have turned into a nostalgia act, touring with other bands from the 70’s and 80’s and playing the hits at holiday camps and small city halls, however they’ve never really adhered to the usual conventions and persist in trying new things. Three years ago it was producing a rock opera for Swedish National Radio centred around the famous Swedish Director, Ingmar Bergman. This year it’s embarking on what they’ve entitled the ‘Two Hands, One Mouth’ tour, named so due to only utilising Ron Mael’s two hands on the keyboard, and Russell Mael’s vocal chords to make their music rather than a full band.

This is the first time they’ve attempted such a feat, having always previously toured with a full band, or using a computer in order to be able to produce the sound that fans have come to expect. Sparks have been quoted as saying that they didn’t want it turn into a singer-songwriter kind of affair, and to be fair to them it most certainly didn’t end up anything like the fairly sedate, introspective kind of affair that you might imagine.

Playing in the beautiful surroundings of the Brighton Dome, the band played a set comprised of songs from throughout their 40 year career. Due to the nature in which they were playing the nights set, it was interesting hearing how certain songs were reproduced so stripped down. It should be noted though that Sparks are no strangers to tinkering around with how their own songs sound, having released an album of reworkings of some of their most popular tracks, entitled ‘Plagiarism.’ They’re most certainly a band not afraid of a little experimentation.

The Mael brothers have an excellent stage presence, and even though the stage was sparsely populated it didn’t feel at all lacking. Russell constantly moves around, almost hyperactively, whilst Ron for the most part is stoic and still. One of the little things that I noticed that really stood out to me was seeing Ron Mael, who is the principal songwriter for all of Spark’s material, mouthing along to the lyrics. It seems even after forty years he still loves the songs he’s written.

The set that they did play for the most part worked extremely well under the constraints they’d placed upon themselves. The odd track didn’t hit the mark, this was due to being somewhat lyrically & musically repetitive such as ‘My Baby’s Taking me Home’, whilst ‘The Wedding of Jaqueline Kennedy to Russell Mael’ is barely a song, but thankfully kept short. The audience for this show wasn’t the best, a combination of the venue not being full and being seated led to a fairly sedate crowd. Where there were obvious places in the set that audience participation may have enhanced it, it sadly fell flat.

Particular highlights included ‘Hospitality on Parade’, ‘At Home, At Work, At Play’, the medleyfrom ‘The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman’, and of course ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both ofUs’. All of these sounded particularly stirring and brilliant stripped back. Russells vocals and Ron’s keyboard really coming alive and filling the Brigton Dome. At the end of the show it was clear the format worked, and they put on a great show. Seeing them play stripped back like this though has only whet my appetite to see them play a full band show at some point in the future.

Set List:

Two Hands, One Mouth Overture

Hospitality on Parade

Metaphor

Propaganda

At Home, At Work, At Play

Sherlock Holmes

Good Morning

Under the Table With Her

My Baby’s Taking Me Home

Singing in the Shower

The Wedding of Jacqueline Kennedy to Russell Mael

Excerpts from The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman

Dick Around

Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth

This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us

The Rhythm Thief

Suburban Homeboy

When Do I Get to Sing “My Way”

Encore:

The Number One Song in Heaven

Beat the Clock

Two Hands, One Mouth

Spotify playlist of setlist.

 

 

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