Copyright 1993 Times Newspapers Limited
The Times

November 8, 1993, Monday

SECTION: Features

LENGTH: 402 words

HEADLINE: Haunted by the Beatles

BYLINE: David Sinclair

   World PartyAimee Mann, Brixton Academy

HOWEVER much the modern rock'n'roll circus may seem to be spinning towards ever more dizzying extremes, there will always be performers who are keen to reaffirm the eternal verities. It was the ghost of the Beatles, among others, which haunted the stage at Brixton on Wednesday, as first Aimee Mann and then World Party, both playing at moderate volume and doing little more than stand behind their microphones throughout, proceeded to string together a set of songs enjoyable primarily for their good tunes, proper harmonies and thoughtful lyrics.

George Harrison was at World Party supremo Karl Wallinger's elbow, in spirit anyway, as he led the band into ''All I Gave'', with its tart slide-guitar sound and swooping melody, while comic songwriter Neil Innes joined Mann on stage in person to sing one of the pseudo-Beatles songs which he wrote for the spoof TV documentary The Rutles.

So far so good, but while both acts displayed their august musical provenance with pride, neither of them completely transcended the sum of such influences. In World Party's case, a solid and at times inspired performance was marred by a lack of drive and a strange reluctance to land the knockout punch.

Armed with material from all three of their albums, but mostly featuring songs from this year's Bang! (their most successful yet), they negotiated an unevenly paced sequence of peaks and troughs with stoical precision. Starting with ''Is It Like Today?'' and ''Message In The Box'', the material ranged from the acoustic guitar harmony-pop of ''Mystery Girl'' to the full-tilt go-go beat finale of ''Give It All Away''. They lost momentum during an extended bout of ''encores'' until a rousing version of ''Ship Of Fools'' finally gave the audience what it had paid to hear.

Given the amount of exposure she has enjoyed, it was initially a surprise to find Aimee Mann, formerly of American group 'Til Tuesday, as support act. Tall and willowy, in a black frock coat, black drainpipes and frilly white shirt, she looked strikingly like Chrissie Hynde, but for the shock of blonde hair, and sounded not unlike her.

Surrounded by a capable four-piece band, there was a hesitant, slightly nervous quality to her performance despite the unfailingly cool nature of songs like ''Could've Been Anyone'' and the wonderfully haughty single ''I Should've Known''.