Sparks performing their Hippopotamus Tour at Rock City Nottingham on Friday 23rd September 2017.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

For those old enough to remember Top Of The Pops back in the 70s, they will undoubtedly recall brothers Russell and Ron Mael, collectively known as Sparks, making an appearance as a wild haired flamboyant singer and a static keyboard player with his Charlie Chaplin moustache who momentarily flashed an evil glare from the corner of his eyes.

And since then no-one has looked or sounded like them because in the 70s it was hard to know how to pigeonhole them and four plus decades later, they are still as impossible to peg. With their famous commercial breakthrough album, Kimono My House coming in 1974 they have released another 23 studio albums over the years resulting in a catalogue of songs containing their blend of tongue in cheek lyrics, infectious melodies and peculiar arrangements.

It was their latest album, Hippopotamus that brought them to Rock City last night and they showcased seven songs from it. Backed by guitarists Taylor Locke and Evan Weiss, second keyboard player Tyler Parkford, bassist Zach Dawes and drummer Steven Nistor, they opened with new song What The Hell Is It This Time?

Thrilling the crowd for over an hour and a half with their eclectic, exuberant, thrilling pop music there was Propaganda and At Home At Work At Play, whilst the haunting piano refrain of Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me) still stands as a testimony that their song writing talents are still as credible as ever.

With Russell’s incredible vocal range being miraculously untouched by time as he charges and jumps around the stage, Ron still sits behind the keyboard with his stern and scowling look. During Missionary Position Russell’s striking falsetto was showed off to full effect whilst Ron flashed him a steely glance. There was also the soaring synth pop of When Do I Get To Sing My Way and the metallic riffing on the dramatic Dick Around To The Music Hall.

As the show was brought to a close, Ron, who had barely moved all night, jumped up during Number One Song In Heaven, loosened his tie and burst into some rabid Cossack like dancing before tightening his tie and returning to his statuesque position as before.

They could not leave before they played their huge hit, this Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, which whipped the adoring audience into an ecstatic frenzy. Encoring with Johnny Delusional; a lovely piece of pure pop from their FFS project with Franz Ferdinand, and a romping Amateur Hour all just served to show that Sparks are still a force to be reckoned with.