It was unseasonably cold night when a few close friends and I descended upon the small hamlet of Manhattan to experience the phenomenal band, Sparks. The virtuosic sibling duo has been reinventing the musical landscape generation after generation, and reaching some of their greatest creative heights 50 years into their run.
The Sparks’ North American tour caps a remarkably successful period for the Mael brothers. They released the album, “A Steady Drip Drip Drip,” in 2020; a popular documentary directed by Edgar Wright; and an acclaimed musical feature directed by famed French filmmaker Leos Carax. Ron and Russell promised their fans they’re nowhere near done; a new album is in the works and possibly another movie musical. But their live show was something particularly special.
The brothers Ron and Russell Mael (aka Sparks) took to the stage in New York for the first time in more than two years to an ebullient crowd, and the energy at Town Hall was decidedly celebratory. Russell confided that they weren’t sure if they’d be able to perform live again, so the show was triumphant and surprisingly poignant.
The venue itself added to the intimacy and magic of the evening. The storied Town Hall is located in the heart of Times Square and seats 1,500, but the brothers and their excellent five-member band radiated warmth and a cozy conviviality that extended from the orchestra seats to the balcony rows. Truly, there wasn’t a bad seat in the house.
With an oeuvre of work that spans five decades, Sparks had a wealth of material to choose from. They delighted the audience with a confident, crowd-pleasing set list that kicked off with the eminently appropriate show-opener, “So May We Start” from their 2021 rock opera, “Annette.” They went straight into their monster hit “Angst in my Pants,” and the rest of the 23-song set showcased the depth and breadth of their incredible career. The evening featured songs from the early days, including “Wonder Girl” from their “Halfnelson” heyday, and the cheeky “Tips For Teens,” to the iconic “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us,” and more highlights from “Annette.”
Whether it was Russell’s cheerful chartreuse pants, agelessly pure falsetto, Ronald’s deadpan whimsy and the audience’s vocal appreciation of him, there was an exuberance and warmth that night at Town Hall that felt like spring had finally arrived. Everyone got on their feet to pay homage to “Music That You Can Dance To,” sing along to the lyrics of “My Baby’s Taking Me Home,” and reminisced about “All that we’ve done, we’ve lost, we’ve won. All that, all that and more. All that we’ve seen. We’ve heard, we’ve dreamed,” as Sparks gracefully departed the stage.
The duo is now in Europe, where they will tour through mid-May. Should you find yourself with the opportunity to catch Sparks, I cannot recommend highly enough that you do so. They always put on a phenomenal and memorable performance.