LONDON (AFP) – American alternative rock and pop duo Sparks revisited their seminal third album “Kimono My House” with the help of a 38-piece orchestra at London’s Barbican on Friday, marking the records’s 40th anniversary.
Los Angeles-based brothers Ron and Russell Mael, both in their 60s, took to the stage dressed in kimonos for the first of two dates.
They were accompanied by a medley of some of their songs performed by the Heritage Orchestra, a London orchestra that specialises in giving modern music a classical twist.
The show, like the 1974 album, opened with the band’s biggest hit, “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us”.
The record’s fusion of glam rock style and Western-movie sounds and lyrics, combined with lead singer Russell Mael’s falsetto voice, gave the band their breakthrough after they had relocated to London in 1973.
“We’re ecstatic to be back in London… back where it all started,” said Russell, the younger of the two brothers, after a rendition of the anti-festive “Thank God It’s Not Christmas”, a song depicting the boredom of the holiday season.
Ron Mael, sporting his trademark thin moustache, played the grand piano rather than his usual electronic keyboard as he accompanied the young orchestra, giving the pop songs a new-found sense of grandeur.
At other points, the band evoked the atmosphere of a fairground (“Falling In Love With Myself Again”), and 1950s film noir (“Here In Heaven”).
After a short interval, the band were back on stage at the modernist London venue, where almost 2,000 fans had gathered, travelling from Britain, France, Belgium and beyond.
The second hour-long set comprised a selection of songs from their 22 studio albums, including a symphonic version of their 1979 disco hit “The Number One Song in Heaven”, and excerpts from their 2009 musical, and latest studio offering, “The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman”.
The band will take the show to their home town of Los Angeles on February 14, 2015.
Sparks have also recently recorded a much-anticipated album with Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand.
Alex Kapranos, the lead singer of the Glaswegian outfit, attended the concert Friday and told AFP afterwards that the album would be released “at the end of May, beginning of June” with a single due in March.