Concert Review: World Party, Oct. 2, The El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles
Karl Wallinger and World Party performing “Put the Message In the Box” in Los Angeles. Photo by George Lang
World Party’s Karl Wallinger did not slide off the radar because of a cratering industry or shifting tastes: he was forced out of action by an aneurysm in 2001, which left him unable to speak for a while, required him to relearn his instruments to some degree, and did a number on his depth-of-field vision. As such, his last disc was 2000′s Dumbing Up, and his performances are somewhat rare these days: Wallinger played five dates on the West Coast, including a packed penultimate date Friday at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre that proved that whatever musical faculties he lost back then, he regained them fully.
Playing with mostly pick-up musicians, Wallinger kicked off his set with “Put the Message in the Box,” a chart hit from 1990′s Goodbye Jumbo, and it was clear that he would not be doling out the best-recognized songs at the end — he had plenty to keep the audience singing along from start to finish. With his short-cropped gray hair and a few extra pounds, Wallinger at 52 no longer looks like he uses John Lennon as his sartorial model, but World Party continues to be church service for Beatles worshipers. This is a singer who doesn’t actively ape Lennon’s voice, but his tenor and phrasing bear both Lennon’s elegance in ballad territory and his insistence when needed in rockier territory.
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