A little more than 40 years ago, forward-looking L.A. rock band Sparks released their third album, “Kimono My House,” a work that influenced a lot of glam-rock, dance and electronic music that followed. This weekend, founding members Ron and Russell Mael will play their commercial breakthrough album live in its entirety in two shows at the Theatre at Ace Hotel downtown.
The Mael siblings will be accompanied Saturday and Sunday by a 38-piece orchestra, which also will be on board for other songs spanning Sparks’ four decade-plus recording career, specially arranged for these shows.
It won’t be the first time the Mael brothers have performed “Kimono,” which yielded their single “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us,” from beginning to end. They also did it seven years ago in London during a stint in which they performed all (at that time) 21 of their studio albums live over the course of 21 nonconsecutive nights.
“We wanted the concert’s orchestral arrangements to not simply be strings sweetening and playing behind a rock band but rather we wanted to do challenging, modern, complex arrangements,” Russell Mael said. “Members of the 38-piece Heritage Orchestra in London told us that this was an extremely difficult and challenging score for them to do.”
In place of the Heritage Orchestra and conductor Jules Buckley, who performed for the London shows, Sparks will be supported by a local orchestra being assembled by part-time L.A. Philharmonic arranger-conductor Suzie Katayama, who also has recorded and toured with artists such as Bjork, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow and Barbra Streisand.
Mael also said Sparks’ mission is a little different this time out.
“Whereas during the ‘21 Nights’ concert of ‘Kimono My House’ in London, where we wanted to do a very faithful band performance of the original album — as we attempted to do for all 21 albums of ours at that time — the concept for these performances is to broaden our musical palette while still attempting to retain all of the eccentricity and flavor of the original album,” he said.
One big challenge, of course, is rehearsing for a show with a 38-piece orchestra when there is no 38-piece orchestra sitting handily in your home studio.
“Ron and I have rehearsed for the shows for about three months,” Russell said, “however, the rehearsal process is really unique to what we’re used to doing as we obviously can’t have a 38-piece orchestra with us for months on end.
“So our arranger, Nathan Kelly, made audio mock-ups of the orchestra doing the arrangements for us so we could rehearse with just the two of us and a good playback system,” he said. “The shock was sitting down in front of the real orchestra in London and hearing how wonderfully different the real musicians’ performances were to our demos.”
The Maels have been working largely outside the conventional rock band lineup and instrumentation for the last dozen years, starting with their innovative 2003 album, “Li’l Beethoven,” in which they tried to channel the energy of rock without the familiar musical textures that have been part and parcel of the genre for decades.
A biting sense of humor was a central element of “Kimono My House,” and virtually all of Sparks’ music, which led Mael to note that “we’re excited to do [‘Kimono’] in L.A., especially in such an appropriate venue as the elegant Ace Theatre. Any venue established by Charlie Chaplin and Co. is the right venue for us.”
Follow @RandyLewis2 on Twitter for pop music coverage
Where: The Theatre at the Ace Hotel, 929 S. Broadway, Los Angeles
When: 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Cost: $56.65 to $154.85