Last night's World Party show was met with such anticipation. I had seen them previously on two occasions one night in 1991 and still rank that night as one of my top ten musical experiences ever. And now, 15 years later, Karl Wallinger and gang finally played again in Music City. Mr. Wallinger has certainly weathered some bad stuff over the years. He suffered a life threatening aneurysm, he split from his record label, some bandmates and his former record manager secretly re-recorded one of his songs with Robbie Williams (a fact that he seems a bit bitter about except for the bit about the huge success of it and the royalties that certainly came his way as a result), and his own personal manager and mentor, Steve Fargnoli, died of cancer.
But here he was, on the stage at The Mercy Lounge, doing what he does. This time a bit stripped down. As the title mentions, he introduced his World Party as being a few continents shy. No bass. No drums. Just he and his guitar, one man playing electric guitar, and a third playing fiddle and mandolin. Having heard how full his songs are with full band, I was a bit disappointed about this, but quickly forgot all about that after the band got going. Each song sounded fantastic.
The show was not sold out like I had assumed it would be, but it was a good crowd nonetheless. I saw an old friend from my record store days. I looked around and really missed being among crowds like this most nights. Everyone around me seemed to live and breathe music. And I felt that youthful energy in me that I too often forget about. The Mercy Lounge really is my Fountain of Youth.
I got there early to watch the crowd build. I sat on the deck and saw Karl and his bandmates standing in front of their bus taking pictures of each other with the club in the background. I listened to the music playing over the sound system as the venue got less and less empty. The bartenders were about as friendly as any bartenders in Nashville. At some clubs, you almost expect (and maybe appreciate) the sullen "I'm too cool for you" vibe that you get from some servers. But here, I always melt a bit when the bartenders give me that very friendly and genuine smile while hearing what I'll have. And I am always more than happy to tip accordingly. I don't know their names, but they are as cool and kind as they are beautiful. And they are quite beautiful.
But back to the show. As soon as World Party took to the stage, I abandoned my barstool and made my way to the front of the stage. For the next hour and a half, I stood and took the music in. How my emotions are affected by this wonderful mix of words and chords, I'll always be thankful. I noticed one woman sitting in a chair that she had pulled up to the very closest spot to the stage and she just looked up and smiled and hung on Karl's every verse. Maybe it was her short, dark hair or something else, but as I watched her in her musical bliss, I thought of how my mom would be just like that at any given concert watching someone she loves. And just like that, here I was at a World Party concert, thinking of how much I love my mom. That was not a revelation, mind you. Of course I love my mom; I just didn't expect to be thinking about that while at a club show.
Toward the end of the show, I also noticed a young couple embracing. It was a nice moment. But on a more studied glance, I saw that the girl was crying just a little bit. I caught her glance and gave her a polite smile which she returned. I turned my head back to the stage, feeling like I had glimpsed too private a moment already. But I glanced again and saw that her man was wiping his eyes under his glasses, too. They were certainly dealing with something and I wish them well. I saw a lot of love in that public but tearful embrace. "Love Street" was the song and I think I will forever think of them when I hear that song again.
Speaking of hugs, I received one as well. (What a night, right?) Facing the stage, soaking it all in, all of a sudden a man makes his way forward from behind and seems to be hugging everyone he passes on the way. Certainly, I am caught off guard as he puts one arm around me while walking by. I look to my right to meet his eyes and he squeezes my left shoulder a bit, gives me a smile, and makes his way forward doing the same thing to each person he passes. The vibe here is so much about peace and love that no one seems to mind. All, including me, smile back and finally he gets to the front to meet his buddies. Observing them for a bit, it is apparent that the three of them are quite drunk. At least he's not a mean drunk. I'll accept an innocent hug any day.
All of the songs were well received. Everyone here is a fan and everyone is happy that Karl Wallinger has brought his World Party to Nashville. We all do our little sways to the music and pay attention to the words and politely clap as each song comes to an end. What I wasn't ready for was how much every person really took their excitement to another level when we heard "Is It Too Late?" near the end of the concert. We are not people who just buy singles. We buy albums and listen to them all the way through. And when I think of World Party, I don't think of any one song that really defines them. So it was funny and strange to me to really feel that elevated energy level for any one song in particular. But this was the song where several people started singing along and the swaying back and forth was much more bold and intense. I wonder if it's like that at all of his shows and I wonder how much the band members feel the rise in energy when they play it. It's got to be awesome for them if so.
So thanks to the band for what they did for me last night. And thanks to The Mercy Lounge for its part in another of my great musical memories.
Here's the link to the account of the first time I saw World Party (twice in one night!) back in 1991.