The Sparks brothers toured their 26th studio album, ‘The Girl is Crying in Her Latte’, with their UK tour culminating in two sold out nights at the Royal Albert Hall, the first time they had played there, with a humbled Russell Mael (vocals) explaining that it was their dream since moving with older brother Ron Mael (keyboard) to London in the early ’70s, and thinking that was where the big bands played, which in recent years Sparks has well proven itself to be amongst.

After entering to an instrumental version of new track ‘Take Me For A Ride’, the band played their new title track and single, ‘The Girl is Crying in Her Latte’, early on in their set; a backing track of frazzling electronics and synth flashes against a pumping beat with an audience singalong, but without Cate Blanchett dancing on stage as in the official video and at their Glastonbury performance. After playing ‘Angst in My Pants’, they performed against the warped brassy intro and accordion ditty of ‘Beaver O’ Lindy’, from their 1973 second album, ‘A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing’, and their first single of the eighties decade, ‘When I’m With You’, from ‘Terminal Jive’, with its dance-rock guitar synth.

The duo came back to their current release, playing their third single: a comical dance track written about a 22-hour-old baby who wants to return to its mother’s womb, called ‘Nothing is as Good as They Say it is’, featuring a guitar solo and stripped down piano and voice part. They also played more acoustic track, ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way’, returning to their dance rhythms with the punctuating ‘Balls’ from their 2000 and eighteenth studio album of the same name; Russell’s amazing athletic energy, bouncing around the stage in front of a LED screen of bright visuals.

Ron then performed traditional setlist favourite, spoken word piece, ‘The Shopping Mall of Love’, from Sparks’ 1986 studio album, ‘Music That You Can Dance To’, after which followed more new tracks from the current album: the Kraftwerk ‘Autobahn’ electronic simplicity of brief romance, ‘Escalator’, and then the stark ‘We Go Dancing’; the latter an ironic imagining of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s military parades. They returned to ‘Music That You Can Dance To’ with its eponymous title track.

The Mael brothers finished their just shy of two-hour set on three of their biggest classics and hits: the Pet Shop Boysesque, ‘When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way”, from 1994’s ‘Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins’; Giorgio Moroder produced ‘The Number One Song in Heaven’ (with Ron’s trademark strides) from the 1979 album of the same name and ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for The Both of Us’ from 1974’s ‘Kimono My House’, ending their set on the final track of their new album, the sardonic humour of piano piece, ‘Gee, That Was Fun’, to a full standing ovation.

29/05/23: Sparks @ Royal Albert Hall, London.

Photos © E. Gabriel Edvy/Blackswitch Labs

© Ayisha Khan.