• Aled Vernon-Rees

Sparks at The Waterfront - Review

On a mid-temperatured afternoon in September (the 18th to be precise) I set out to The Waterfront to see the legendary American glam rock band Sparks. They are currently touring their new album ‘Hippopotamus’ and their stop at Norwich was first time they’ve visited in what must be about 20 years. This gap however long seemed to have only made the crowd more excited as the queue outside the venue was the longest I have seen (just over taking Laura Marling). This excitement was made much clearer upon my entrance to the venue, where I saw the room absolutely packed with eager fans wearing Sparks shirts spanning decades.

As I waited amongst the packed room of people, most of whom were a good generation older than me, the support act came of stage. It was not the most dramatic of entrances from Mister Goodnight, who is most well known as being the singer from Los Angeles band Mini Mansions. He slowly walked to the back of the stage turning on his backing track which made the audience fairly confused at first I think most people were expecting some form of band. I was part of this slightly let down crowd, I was definitely expecting more as a Mini Mansions fan. The backing tracks were nice yet the lack of live instruments made the vocals and track seem very detached from one another. It all felt a bit surreal like watching a distant uncle doing karaoke at a wedding. There was nothing wrong with his singing, it’s just his sauntering round the stage with just a microphone seemed somewhat misplaced.

I considered the room packed before but as Sparks grace the stage people seem to appear out of nowhere cramming the place out while applauding till their hearts content. Through the multiplicity of heads, I manage to see the famous Mael brothers and their backing band which included Mister Goodnight and the guitarist from Mini Mansions. All dressed in stripes they broke into a song of the new album called ‘What the Hell Is It This Time?’. The second they started playing it was clear that this band had not aged, singer Russel was jumping round the stage like an excited child singing in his unique playful falsetto tone. This energy did not dip at any point through the set, it was possibly one of the tightest sets I’ve ever seen.

Though new songs like ‘Hippopotamus’ and ‘I Wish You Were Fun’ were very well received by the endearing crowd the highlight of the set came near the end. They played ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ an eccentric synth driven song in which half way through keyboardist Ron who had remained seated for the whole set got off his stool and embarked on what could only be described as a faultless dance around the front of the stage. This song was then immediately followed by crowd favourite ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for The Both Of Us’, the upbeat rocky number had everyone attempting to sing along to Russel’s extremely jumpy vocals – it was a sight to behold. When they left the stage the stage the hordes of adoring applauding fans made sure that an encore happened. They then played two more exceptional songs including a favourite of mine ‘Johnny Delusional’, a song they made when they were in a supergroup with Franz Ferdinand called FFS. After their last song, the band group together to deliver a well earned bow to the astonished room of people. After the backing band left Russel then said how amazing the response was to the first day of the UK tour and seemed so humbled by the crowd. Hopefully he has enjoyed himself so much that we don't have to wait another 20 years for their next gig here. After the show, I really felt like I had witnessed something special, this band who’s lyrics can seem so nonsensical at times (singing about things like the missionary position and dicking around) have such a power to make people come together and enjoy themselves.

I think this was a gig everyone in that room will remember for the rest of their lives.

#gigreview #music

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