Sparks – Glasgow – Barrowlands Ballroom –
13th April 2022
Words and images: John Brown
The Mael brothers are enigmatic and iconic with a huge catalogue of sometimes strange, sometimes irritatingly catchy but always brilliant music. The peaks and troughs create a massive sine wave through an amazing career full of gold discs and accolades.
Ron and Russell Mael are Sparks and, with the assistance of an extremely talented band, are in the midst of a sell-out tour and tonight they storm into Glasgow and the world famous Barrowlands Ballroom.
There is no support band and an early start for the show. There are numerous Covid precautions in place such as an extended gap between the stage and the crowd and messages relayed over the PA system to remind fans and staff to wear a mask at all times in order to protect the band. In addition, there is no place for photographers in the pit at the front of the stage in order to maintain the sterile space… all understandable in Covid times and Sparks brothers of a certain age.
As the band makes their way on stage the famous Barrowlands roar makes the hair stand on the arms and necks of all present as this eagerly anticipated gig begins. The fans have waited a long time and, as usual, the Glasgow crowd is good to go!
The stage setup is minimal and simple… Ron sitting at his keyboard on one side of the stage and Russell patrolling the other side. The band members are conspicuously placed along the back of the stage and, for the most part, in relative darkness. The sound deserves a mention as it was simply superb and full credit to the engineers.
Flawlessly, Sparks treat the congregation to a veritable smorgasbord of musical magnificence. A MAELstrom of something different, something old, and something new goes down a storm. Operatic falsetto to techno vibes and everything in between; time signatures rarely heard in contemporary music and, of course, a nod to Edith Piaf. This wasn’t your normal, everyday gig; this was Sparks and Glasgow was much better for it.
As they move onto Manchester and beyond Sparks left the audience with an “I was there” memory as they touched the heart of everyone fortunate enough to have been there… no onstage frill or party tricks, just a band on fire and in complete symbiosis with about 2000 lucky music fans.