“We’re just a humble band from the dusty desert,” Wilson said, referring to the band’s Arizona roots. “We’d like to leave you with this song and our sincere gratitude.”
Wilson’s trademark fan interaction has for years been his way of showing concert-goers how he appreciates them, and Friday night was no different. Throughout the show, he was giving high-fives to people in the front row and handing over his trademark tambourine, giving select folks a chance to join in making music.
Having flown in from Mississippi at 2 a.m. Friday morning, the band showed an impressive amount of energy. Wilson, again in usual fashion, bounced around the stage like it was the band’s heyday of 1992. Guitarists Jesse Valenzuela and Scott Johnson remained in the background, though they had their moments to shine. They showed some bluesy chops as they dueled on their guitars during a middle-of-the-show instrumental session, and of course all eyes were on them anytime they hit the chords that told the audience a familiar hit was coming.
About half of Friday night’s set list consisted of hits from early- to mid-1990s. The rest were newer tunes, which didn’t seem to stir the crowd quite as much but Wilson thought the reaction from the Sparks crowd was better than from other audiences.
“Tonight people reacted well to the new material,” Wilson said backstage after the show. He acknowledged, though, that the reaction the band gets to the older, more familiar hits is “one of those things that makes it all worth it.”
Wilson told the crowd that the band’s drum machine somehow didn’t make the trip from Mississippi, but afterward he said that the accident turned out for the better.
“We played a little faster than normal, but it helped,” he said. “We had a good groove going.”
He was right about that. About 30 minutes into the 90-minute show, a few soothing tunes seemed to lull the audience, but when the band broke into “Until I Hear It From You,” “Hey Jealousy” and “Follow You Down” back-to-back-to-back, the front rows were all up and dancing. The audience-friendly band even let a few gregarious, daring female fans stay and dance on the corners of the stage – until security made them get down.
After the band left the stage for the “end” of the show and the audience made its obligatory demand for an encore, Wilson, who only played tambourine and a little harmonica the entire show, came on stage with an acoustic guitar. He started playing a familiar tune and shortly into the lyrics the song became apparent: the Elton John classic “Rocket Man.” He played solo for a few minutes before the rest of the band joined him to finish out the song in style.
“Tonight we felt it right from the first song,” a bleary-eyed Wilson said, paying tribute to the fans even after they had all left. “The crowd was right there with us.”