Gig review: World Party, Glasgow

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“Great to see you,” repeated Karl Wallinger twice as the main part of his set drew to a close, and rarely has such a typically throwaway greeting been delivered with such genuine relief and gratitude.

World Party - Oran Mor, Glasgow

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From pop stardom and the verge of huge crossover success in the early ’90s, the polymath singer, guitarist, pianist and ex-Waterboy has largely disappeared from view for the past decade and a half. Much of this is understandable – it took him five years to recover from an aneurysm suffered in 2001 – but his return to action has nevertheless been halting since.

So the reception he received here would have been both a relief and an encouragement. The venue was full, largely with middle-aged men and some women, all apparently charged with an awareness of the deeper recesses of Wallinger’s catalogue, beyond his handful of hits. The more familiar of these were present and correct – the breezy Is It Like Today?, sometime Robbie Williams-covered success She’s the One, and the downbeat Ship of Fools – but there were also perhaps less widely expected excursions into a Jools Holland kind of soulful boogie with Call Me Up and pure, clean-cut country with Sweet Soul Dream.

The fact the bearded 55-year-old was on stage alongside just a fiddle player and a slide guitarist added an intimacy to proceedings, although perhaps it also weakened the songs when, as in the case of the sweet-hearted All I Gave, the audience’s singalong appeared to wrest control from him. When even the sound guy was playing guitar at the back of the room to the Subterranean Homesick Blues-style rattle of Who Are You?, the feeling persisted that this was really a taster for the more expansive full-band show Wallinger’s played elsewhere.

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