His music helped calm and keep me sane in the nineties. It was his most prolific songwriting period to date and he almost did not make it out of the following decade. Karl Wallinger, for all intensive purposes is the band World Party and last night I finally got to see him live.
The wait was almost twenty five years. As far as I know he only played Columbus once, for a local radio station’s festival and I blew that off because I did not want to deal with a crowd of people and hear bands I did not like while waiting for the group I wanted to see play half an hour. So when the date was announced I was bummed because it fell on a kid night, but my wife took on the duty so I could go.
The Basement is an odd venue. It was my first time there and I plan on avoiding it as much as I can. There are pillars that erase sight lines, a pit in front of the band that has to be Hell to be in when a band with a heavier sound plays. The audience crowds a smaller space just to be able to see the band, leaving tons of empty space by the bar wasted - the sound is quieter, and better where you cannot see the band. It’s a messed up design.
Gabriel Kelly opened and played to a mostly inattentive audience. He gave it his best, thanked the people who were paying attention and laid into the Nashville songwriting scene, which he was a part of for a few years. He did a quiet set of well crafted, introspective songs and added a very good cover of Springsteen’s Atlantic City. Told him he did a good set when he walked by me, “Thanks brother,” he said as he tapped me on the shoulder.
Right after his set, my friend Teri showed up, then Wallinger, along with fiddler Danny Duffy and guitarist John Turnbull began some rather astonishing work. Not having a drummer by choice can hinder a band. I’ve seen Lucinda Williams and Warren Zevon strain to connect with a crowd because they did not have anyone behind them kicking their ass forward but in this instance all was well. The musicianship and new arrangement were superb and Turnbull, who played with Ian Dury’s Blockheads, was incredible with some very tasty leads.
As for the songs, I’ve been waiting to hear Sweet Soul Dream for such a long time and they delivered. A lot of the Goodbye Jumbo record was performed. He did a wonderful She’s the One. It was almost as if Wallinger asked me to put the set together before the show. The banter with the crowd was pleasant and witty, the man is a pro. He was in great voice and showed no effects from the brain aneurysm that required years of rehab over a decade ago. Took home a cd they were selling of a recent show. I heard everything I wanted last night and more, it was worth the wait.