A while back it occurred to me that with a new Sparks album out, there might be a tour to go with it, so I checked to see whether they were coming to the Bay Area.  It turned out that they were—​for one night only, October 20, at a small club in the Mission.  But in order to accommodate more fans, they were actually scheduled to play two shows back to back: one at seven p.m. and the second at eleven.  The early show was sold out by the time I went looking for a ticket, so the late show it was.  (It started so late that I had to drive there, since the trains here stop running shortly after midnight.  But somehow I found a parking spot right around the corner from the club!  In San Francisco town!  What the?)

Thumbs‐up to the show itself—​this seven‐piece band was probably the best version of Sparks for me to see, because my one gripe when I first listened to their first 22 albums back in 2011 was that for all their great songs they rarely just rocked out, and their current configuration is finally remedying that.  Great cannon‐shot drumming, and the guitars had a crisp and powerful attack to them along with some awesome spacey Gibson textures.  Russell Mael was somehow still able to hit all those high notes at 12:30 a.m. after singing for three hours (at age 69).  Ron Mael was unmistakably Ron Mael.  Great as the show itself was, I was significantly less enamored of the venue.  Unlike the club in Toronto where I saw Die Mannequin, this place was basically just a big square of floor, with no elevated areas to stand on and see better, and it was packed solid with humans.  (Before the show I did wonder what kind of people would come to a Sparks show in the U.S. in 2017; initially it was mostly elderly gay couples—​perhaps not too surprising three‐quarters of a mile from the Castro—​but right before the band went on the crowd’s numbers were supplemented by a flood of young women in berets.)  Also unlike the club in Toronto the room filled up with smoke pretty quickly; at least it was just pot smoke and not tobacco, but still, I prefer my air transparent.

Anyway, here is the set list.  It’s long enough, and my memory is bad enough, that I may not have the order exactly right in the middle there, but I’m pretty sure I’m not missing any.  It’s the usual key:

Video link
Video link with negligible video content (photos of album covers, etc.)
Spotify link

“Hospitality on Parade” (1975)
“Propaganda” (1974)
“At Home, At Work, At Play” (1974)
“Good Morning” (2008)
“When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’” (1994)
“Probably Nothing” (2017)
“Missionary Position” (2017)
“Hippopotamus” (2017)
“Nicotina” (1982)
“Scandinavian Design” (2017)
“I Wish You Were Fun” (2017)
“Edith Piaf” (2017)
“My Baby’s Taking Me Home” (2002)
“Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth” (1974)
“The Number One Song in Heaven” (1979)
“This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” (1974)
Encore:
“What the Hell Is It This Time?” (2017)
“Amateur Hour” (1974)

Despite my grumbles about the venue, all in all I am super delighted that I got to go to a Sparks show and that the show was great—​if I had gone during the Balls era I suspect that my post would be more polite than enthusiastic.  Note to self for future reference: the next time you go to a rock concert in the middle of the night and also agree to judge a speech tournament that requires you to set the alarm for 5:15 a.m., try not to schedule those back to back again.


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