Sparks, gig review: 'Russell Mael provides ranting, running energy'

Union Chapel, London

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The Independent Culture

The synth-pop duo is one of the many innovations Sparks have gifted to pop.

Since "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both Of Us" conquered the UK in 1974, the band have had a nomadic career with lone hits in seemingly random separate continents.

Reducing themselves to Ron Mael’s old-school keyboard and brother Russell’s voice for this second lap of their Two Hands, One Mouth tour is their equivalent to a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar, and similarly limiting. Lacking the gunshots of “This Town”’s kitchen-sink production, Russell, unfeasibly lithe at 65, provides ranting, running energy himself.

The “It’s Hitler on the telly” exclamations uttered by John Lennon and others when Ron’s deadpan, paintbrush-moustached image aided Sparks’s UK breakthrough is one folk memory that no longer applies.

With his baggy Thirties trousers, he looks more like a worker on an old Hollywood set. Then during “The Number One Song In Heaven”, he loosens his tie like Clark Kent, and Sparks’s eternal straight man actually dances, limbs swinging like Fred Astaire gone haywire. These rare pop brothers who unambiguously love each other are touched by the rousing ovation. “We ain’t,” says Ron, “done yet.”