Ron and Russell Mael (photo courtesy Sparks)
Sparks are certainly an acquired taste. The brothers Ronald and Russell Mael have been touring their Two Hands, One Mouth show for several years now. In so doing, Ron Mael (two hands on keyboards) and Russell Mael (one mouth on vocals) have condensed their catalogue into a vaudevillian presentation of their efforts to deconstruct pop music.
It’s not music for the masses, so its reception in any given venue is going to be a bit of a mystery. The Maels openly wondered if they would be well received at the 9:30 Club on Sunday evening after a long absence from D.C. At the end of the show, they seemed quite pleased with the comfortably half-full club, which contained quite a few admirers of Sparks’ clever word play and occasionally theatrical posturing.
I caught Sparks in two very different shows back in April. I hit up their sold-out performance at Hollywood Forever, a masonic mausoleum in Los Angeles, where Ron and Russell Mael did a full-length show but alone with Ron on keyboards and Russell on vocals.
It was slightly amazing to see them in such an intimate venue with people who were truly fans. I got caught up on some of their recent work like the addictively catchy “The Rhythm Thief” from Lil’ Beethoven. Well, I say recent although that album is now 10 years old. I went to the show exclusively to hear selections like “The Number One Song in Heaven,” which also did not disappoint.
I next saw them at The Coachella Valley Music Festival, where some people really loved them, some people were puzzled and some were just hanging out.
When Sparks play at the 9:30 Club this Sunday, Oct. 27, I suspect you’ll find more of the people who really love them, as this is a rare area performance by the synthpop duo. They play more in Europe, where they are much more popular, and in Los Angeles, their hometown.
In advance of the show, the 9:30 Club interviewed them for its blog, and it sounds like the gents have a good show planned for Thursday. And that they are working on material beyond their recent effort to score an independent film in development, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman.
This is a rare opportunity to catch Sparks locally as they play an early show at the 9:30 Club! Come out and beat the clock! :)
Sunday, Oct. 27