19 May The Glasgow Herald
Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Grab their attention with the opening line is good advice to any writer, be it novelist or songsmith. It’s advice that Rennie Sparks, the lyric-writing partner of the Handsome Family, has taken to heart over the years, luring listeners with possibilities of what might happen when they close the last shopping mall, what followed after the airship crashed or something altogether more wacky.The wackier Sparksisms may, I realise, be an acquired taste but there’s something about hearing Rennie’s other half, Brett, who gives resonant voice to her imaginings, inviting his darling to look at his waving antennae that, as well as soliciting a grade one grin, makes me want to know more.
The Sparks’ return to Glasgow had been sold out for weeks and their promotion to the Tron’s main auditorium, having previously played the venue’s Victorian Bar, was fitting in respect, not just of their growing audience but also of the nature of their performances. This is music theatre, delivered deadpan, creating a magical, dramatic atmosphere in musical arrangement as much as lyrical content, and as entertaining as any pantomime.
Rennie’s announcements have as much offbeat charm as the songs, which drew on old favourites, including the shamelessly catchy Weightless Again and the Giant of Illinois’s tale of the fatal toe blister, as well the ditzy romance of their latest album Honey Moon. But their band, nonchalantly-able guitarist- fiddler Stephen Dorocke and brilliantly frugal drummer Jason Toth, played big parts, too, adding just-so presence and propulsion and turning In the Air into the best song about fear of bridges that Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two never recorded.
– Rob Adams