The Mael brothers still going strong after playing for over fifty years!
The Warfield San Francisco is all abuzz with a completely sold out all seated show. When walking into the venue we wondered what the queue going around the inside of the building, and up the stairs...'Twas a merch line of course! Never before seen one like this. And this long queue was the same length before, during, and after the show. It never let up.
If you are one of those that have never heard of, or experienced Sparks, then allow me to fill you in....Sparks, is a band made up of brothers Ron and Russell Mael orginally from LA growing up in Pacific Pallasades. The Mael bros started playing out in the late sixties under the band name of Halfnelson. In 1968 Halfnelson got the attention of Todd Rundgren. Halfnelson released its first album in 1971. Rundgren helped them produce music and they eventually changed their band name to Sparks in 1972. The Halfnelson album was then re-released by Bearsville Records in 1972 as Sparks. The re-issued debut spawned the minor regional hit "Wonder Girl". Sparks music and fashion style is a quirkey, art rock, new wave poppy, music with unusual and interesting lyrics. And quite visually theatrical.
They have since released 27 albums including a live album. They've also collborated and recorded an album with Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand for an album. They've been at the top of the charts more than once in their 50+ years in the music industry. The first being in 1974 with the number two hit on the Billboard charts with, the song "This Town Aint Big enough for the Both of Us".
The show began at about 8.30, once most of the audience was in their seats. The audience seems to have consisted of real true Mael bros fans. Long term fans experiencing an historic evening of music with their childhood music. The Mael bros brought it onthis evening a the Warfield. Both Ron and Russell are both in their 70's, Ron, 76, Russell 73. Though their ages did not change their style, energy or sound. Time has been kind to these two brothers. As they brought the same energy I had experienced in 1974 at their shows. Russell dancing and singing whilst Ron plays deadpan. A schtick that makes these two unique. In the mid 70's I saw them live, quite a bit. At one of their early gigs at the Whiskey a-Go-Go Russell Mael asked me to get on stage and give his brother Ron a big kiss, (to make him smile). Russell was always coming up with ways to get Ron to crack his deadpan face...my kiss did just that! He cracked up as soon as I planted one on him, sitting at his keyboard. In 1976 Sparks played an epic show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. My friends and I were in the front row. Sparks managment gave us all "Ronald mustaches" to put on. Another prank to get his face to crack! And of course when he looked into the audience he saw us with our mustaches on and he cracked up. That show in particular was amazing, not only was the Sparks set great, but they had this unknown band open for them. That band was a little known band called, Van Halen. One of Van Halens first shows on a proper stage. And they absolutely killed it onstage! Of course! I have never forgotten that Van Halen performance when they were the openers for Sparks, and my introduction to the band. Truly an unforgettable show!
This show at The Warfield in San Francisco, 50+ years into their career brought a certain special historical feel to it. Obvious hardcore long termers were present. The never ending merch line was telling. It felt as if this show was important. They got so many standing ovations for this, their first show of the tour post Covid. The brothers were warm, and humble. Receiving their long bouts of admiration from their long time fans. They were so obviously touched by the crowds' cheers. Their encores felt like they were added after the fact, as the crowd simply did not want them leaving the stage. So they kept coming back. Each time to an enthusiastic loving appreciative crowd. It just felt good. It was heartfelt and so very genuine. Lovely to see as a long time Sparks fan.
So lovely to see and experience this special evening with Sparks. I looked forward to covering this show. Counting down the days leading to showtime. And they did not dissappoint! Thanks to Ron and Russell Mael for entertaining me for a lifetime.