As Edgar Wright’s exhilarating documentary The Sparks Brothers illustrated so well, Ron and Russell Mael, aka Sparks, are “your favorite band’s favorite band” for good reason. The duo have been making delightfully dramatic, experimental yet accessible art rock for over 50 years. Whether they were prancing on Top of The Pops in the ‘70s or blasting from transistor radios on KROQ 106.7 FM in the ‘80s, they never really “fit in” with what was popular at the time.
But last night (February 7th) at Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, illuminated by an array of multi-hued stage lights and backed by a solid five-piece band, they were a splendid fit.
The Hall is home to the LA Philharmonic, and its grand aesthetic and layout (inside and out), not to mention its unmatched acoustics, make seeing orchestral presentations there a truly exquisite experience. Sparks, who hadn’t played a show in their hometown since last summer (when COVID-19 seemed to be subsiding) at another landmark, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, lived up to the even more majestic surroundings last night, serving a performance that was sonically theatrical in mood and pitch-perfect in execution.
The Maels’ refusal to be pigeon-holed by pop music standards kept them from reaching the level of mainstream success that so many of the artists they inspired did, but the fearless fellows never really seemed to mind. The band leaned into their weirdness as they got older, ultimately enjoying their biggest success with their 11th album, the infectious 1982 release, Angst in my Pants, soon followed by another hit, the bubbly Jane Wiedlin duet, “Cool Places.” They didn’t “go to” the latter, but the title track of Angst was their third number on Monday night, and it brought the energy of the crowd way up, especially for what’s typically a reserved setting.