Never mind the Grateful Dead. World Party is destined to be the hippie band of what's left of the 1980s, even if most of the fans at the group's Santa Monica Civic Auditorium concert Tuesday were probably still cavorting in mud puddles when the Woodstock Nation was frolicking in the mud at Yasgur's farm.
World Party leader Karl Wallinger writes serious songs about unity with titles like "Making Love to the World," and he includes about five times as many religious references in his songs as, say, Amy Grant. The conceits of writing from the point of view of God or of This Island Earth (which are apparently synonymous in Wallinger's world view) could be embarrassing coming from a less crafty artist.
But there's a balance of humor and judgment in songs like "Ship of Fools" that makes it clear that he doesn't see peace-love-and-understanding as imminent in our lifetime. He's a cheerfully cynical hippie, thank you.
And a musically proficient one. On the debut record, Wallinger is World Party on some of the tracks; live, he played guitars and keyboards and brought along five fine (and unidentified) players to join the amorphous outfit.