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Pop Music Review : Wang Chung: A Party Animal At The Roxy

April 15, 1987|CHRIS WILLMAN

Does Wang Chung really want you to have fun tonight? For all the repetition of the good-time sentiment in "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," the sour looks on the faces of these fops in the video of the hit song suggest that there may be some condescending irony involved. That's called having it both ways.

But at the Roxy on Monday (the opening of a three-night engagement), there was no doubt about which side of the fun fence Wang Chung now stands (or which side its bread is buttered). No irony. No detachment. None of the old artsy stuff. These two reformed grouches are ready to go head-to-head with Spuds McKenzie for the title of King of Party Animals.

Oh, singer Jack Hues does still usually carry a pained look. But he did smile occasionally, and was loose and demonstrative enough on stage, even baring his hairy chest to the world for the encore, "Dance Hall Days," which he introduced by coaxing, "Do you know what this one is called? Tell me what it's called . . . One more time. . . ."

Not that these hokey antics and stage patter are out of the rock-star mainstream, but Wang Chung can do better--much better. Somewhere between its early artsy leanings and current hyper-commerciality lies a compromise that these two talented pop confectioners seemed to have grasped in their previous two albums.

And at least one song from the latest LP, "The Flat Horizon," found that balance in concert, thanks to a typically expert arrangement featuring fine vocal interplay between Hues and the backing band's wailing female percussionist.

The highlight came with the terrific title track from the duo's score for the film "To Live and Die in L.A.," one of the best songs ever written about Los Angeles. Even if, in reality, Hues and partner Nick Feldman probably don't know the first thing about Los Angeles, the song still beautifully captures the Angst of a paradisaic city in which lonely souls only pretend to connect and. . . .

Wait a minute: Hues is finally getting around to introducing "Fun Tonight," gamely querying, "This is kind of a party town, Los Angeles, right?" Oh, never mind.

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