Culture / Music

When I’m With You: An evening with Sparks at the Sydney Opera House

An evening with pop pioneers Sparks at the Sydney Opera House

I know a few people who discover Sparks through This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both of Us and then their jaws fall to the floor when they realise they have released 26 records. Sparks hadn’t played in Australia for 22 years, and have been consistently releasing records throughout that time allowing for a more-than-generous back catalogue to choose from.

Brothers, Russell and Ron Mael have created a unique performative relationship between themselves of intense dynamism and energy, set against a droll, feigned boredom and an undertone of mischief. Those in attendance of the Sparks show at the Sydney Opera House show were guided through their archive with satire, sophistication and a really slick band behind them.

Opening with So May We Start, the audience was asked to mentally prepare themselves for a genre-shifting set that encapsulated the bands history and musical ideology. Whilst the show was seated, one could feel the excitement and it was interesting to note the diversity in the crowd. It felt as though we were amongst those original fans and a new generation of appreciators. Sadly, I did not spot Cate Blanchett in a yellow suit as the band played The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte, however, Russell’s red suit made up for it.

Angst in my Pants was also in the top end of the set along with When I’m With You, which is just a perfect song about being in love, or not, or infatuated or not, and has the deeply romantic line, "When I’m with you I almost feel normal". Deeply relatable. And funny.

It was great to bring a guest who wasn’t supremely well versed in Sparks' work and watch a new fan being made through spontaneous laughter and interest. We could see just how attentive the audience was, particularly when Ron performed Shopping Mall of Love, and we contemplated, with levity, sex as a commodity…

There would have probably been a riot if Sparks hadn’t played The Number One Song In Heaven, which was a beautiful, verging on celestial, highlight of the set. Their whole performance never lacked energy or intrigue, with the room feeling joyous and completely satisfied with a performance they had waited many years for. Of course, every Sparks fan in the room would have had a different song they wished they had played (Young Girls, for me), but it in no way felt withholding or incomplete. It was an artful and surreal journey through their world and not one to be missed.


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