Sunday, June 29, 2014

World Party concert review: West Hollywood, Calif.

By Kristi York Wooten; taken June 6, 2014 in Atlanta
During World Party’s performance at The Troubadour on Friday, I watched the band’s violinist and couldn’t help recalling main man Karl Wallinger’s Eighties membership in The Waterboys (of which that instrument was often a key part).

After leaving to form World Party, Wallinger made several critically-acclaimed albums through the next decade and scored eight minor UK hit singles. Best known in America for the top 30 pop single “Ship of Fools,” he also charted several times at modern and mainstream rock radio.

In 2012, following a long absence, World Party resurfaced with Arkeology, a five-CD collection featuring 70 rarities encased in a spiral date planner. It encompassed the group’s quarter century history with B-sides (remember those?), demos, covers, live sessions, radio interviews, concert and unissued studio recordings. It’s a must-buy for diehard fans.

The band did a couple brief live swings through the States in support of Arkeology, but last month embarked on a much bigger 25-date trek that just concluded in Solana Beach, Calif.

Wallinger played acoustic guitar and keyboards amid a highly impressive 100-minute set in West Hollywood. He was backed by frequent tour mates John Turnbull (whose credits include Nick Lowe, Boomtown Rats, Paul Young, Ian Dury’s Blockheads) on electric guitar/backing vocals and David Duffy on violin/ mandolin/backing vocals.

The trio opened with intense rocker “Waiting Such a Long Time,” the first of four Arkeology tracks aired here. Fans dutifully sang along loudly to “Put the Message in the Box,” among World Party’s best-known hits, and it went down a storm. The musicians’ harmonies were pristine. Half a dozen tunes were culled from 1990’s Goodbye Jumbo.

Before a truly sublime “Is it Like Today?,” Wallinger mused how it was complicated trying to squeeze the history of Western philosophy into four verses and his distinctly Welsh humor came to the fore all night. “When the Rainbow Comes,” bolstered by Turnbull’s bluesy licks and sumptuous violin work, was an early highlight. Duffy’s eerie accents made “Vanity Fair” more haunting than usual as Turnbull did some chunky end riffs.

Taking to the keyboards for romantic ballad “She’s the One” (a UK chart topper for Robbie Williams in ’99), Wallinger had no trouble nailing the falsetto parts for the sway-worthy “Love Street.”

“So the legalization of marijuana is going good here?,” he asked before starting “God on My Side,” then told the audience about playing in Colorado earlier this month and being amazed at what he could buy.

A Beatlesque “Call Me Up” was joyful and another example of the guys’ seamless harmonic blend. The lilting, Celtic-tinged “Sweet Soul Dream” brought the Waterboys to mind.

Near the end, “Ship of Fools” sounded appropriately dense and supremely soulful; “Sunshine” segued into the slide guitar-infused main set closer “Is it Too Late?” All three members rocked out at the end.

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