Sparks – The Button Factory, 29th October

“Couple of sexagenarians, one lad seated at a keyboard, the other, dressed like an elfin Bobby Jones, standing at mic, like something you might get down The Submarine of a Thursday. But of course, it’s not like that at all.”

After 40 years of Sparks, they’ve finally arrived in Dublin. Just the two of them, mind you Ron and Russell, playing a selections from their voluminous back catalogue on their “Two Hands, One Mouth” tour. Couple of sexagenarians, one lad seated at a keyboard, the other, dressed like an elfin Bobby Jones, standing at mic, like something you might get down The Submarine of a Thursday. But of course, it’s not like that at all.

Any slight reservations about the just two of them capturing, and then holding imaginations for the next hour and a half are quickly dispelled. These boys are pros, after all, born to perform. Russell’s trademark falsetto is still there, everything is played in the same key as it was four decades hence. That’s no mean feat.

We’re expecting hits, because there’s a couple in that back catalogue, and nobody is really disappointed. (Except for some arse who shouts up “we don’t care, play Kimono My House”, expecting the entire album perhaps, when they dare to play something from their last album, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. Ron transforms himself into Bergman by putting on a beret, which was pretty funny.) Starting out in the seventies with Hospitality on Parade, followed by Metaphors from 2006 shows us they’re going to cover the entire spectrum of their 20 or so records, and, not having every single one of them, there’s a few I don’t recognise. But what’s great is that doesn’t matter, the comfort of familiarity is unnecessary here, such is the skill at show.

On balance there seems to be more of their later work, that is to say the last couple of decades, including 3 or 4 songs from Lil Beethoven, where as Kimono My House gets just the one: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both of Us. It’s magnificent, but of course, stripped back and baroque, but no less weird than the original, with that quirk-rock maths jiving that was very ahead of its time. Other stand outs are When Do I Get To Sing My Way, Number 1 Song In Heaven and the mesmeric My Baby’s Taking Me Home. However the undisputed moment of the night is when Ron steps out from behind his Ronald keyboard and starts to dance like an Olympic speed skater, the expression on his face never wavering.

By the end there’s a standing ovation, among those not already standing it must be said. The two brothers stand there, lapping it up, repeating thanks and seeming quite humbled. Then again, it’s us lot who should be grateful, and clearly we are. Rare stuff.

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