Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Sparks

Kurt Weill would be impressed

Scientists have spent decades searching for the evolutionary missing link. In edgy pop, from the Flaming Lips to the Dresden Dolls, it’s Sparks.

by John Anderson

After three decades and 22 albums, Sparks’ Dadaist pop stripped down to the essentials of the Mael siblings: Russ, black tie and formal dress shorts – skipping around the stage rippling his vibrato on “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?” (“practice, practice”) – and Ron, pencil-thin mustache with all the aplomb of an aggrieved Fifties geography teacher, sitting stock still behind his keyboard.

Post-punk before there was punk to be post, electronica via Busby Berkeley, Sparks enthralled, swirled, and even provided a few giggles. Deprived of the full band treatment, Ron tickled the ivories to fill the Yellow stage like a maestro.

Excerpts from soon-to-be-filmed opera The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman would impress Kurt Weill, while glam waltz “Falling in Love With Myself Again” became a church organ/hurdy-gurdy romp. The staccato malice of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us” let Russ unleash that harpy scream, summoning his spats-clad gang for a rumble.

Like FFF 2012 headliner Public Image Ltd, there was creeping frustration that not enough people saw a showstopper from two pioneers. Yet the brothers – immensely more beloved in Europe than their native U.S. – treated the night like a gala performance. Their amiable goofiness ended with Ron loosening his tie and unleashing a delightful, shuffling Charleston and a torrent of thank-yous.

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