BY JOSE MARTINEZ
Irish singer/songwriter and former La Rocca frontman Bjorn Baillie recently wrapped up a solo Southern California tour that included stops at a KCRW sponsored hipster acoustic showcase; a full band set in San Diego; and more of the same at the intimate Lyric Theatre in Los Angeles on Oct. 23.
With so many things to do in L.A., it’s a chore to plan out a week, let alone a night out. But any chance to see Bjorn Baillie live is always a treat. I remember a publicist taking me out to dinner, wining and dining, before La Rocca’s 2006 debut release The Truth came out. As is protocol, once the check has been paid and you’re wrapping up dinner, the PR rep will then start talking business and often hand you a stack of CDs. There were many “high profile” artists among them, as well as a debut from a band called La Rocca, which I was encouraged to listen to but they weren’t as much of a priority as the rest. Guess which is the one that I gravitated to? The only one among the lot that inspired and impressed me was La Rocca. After two full length releases, the band called it quits and lead singer Baillie left L.A. for London and began working on a batch of new, solo songs.
I always likened Baillie’s band to Coldplay meets Rod Stewart, and now, his solo music, including his The Noise We’ll Make EP, is some of the best Americana rock you’ll find this side of E Street; pretty impressive for an Irishman who recorded overseas.
Charismatic, affable and albeit a wee bit sloppy on stage at the Lyric Theatre, which isn’t a bad thing in a live setting, Baillie tore through his news songs showing off the best in genuine, heartfelt indie rock. I still recall Baillie saying during an interview back in ‘06 that he wanted to be his generation’s best songwriter, and indeed his songs tend to be story-driven with beginning, middle and end.
“These songs are simple, strong and say more than I’ve done before,” Baillie says of his new material.
He has a knack for penning songs that you’d swear are lost gems from the ‘70s, effortlessly crafting timeless songs indifferent to trends or styles. Songs like “The Breaks” and “True in Lies” are powerful and drive home an urgency that’s hard to find these days (great guitar work too), likewise “Soap Opera Star” and especially “A Midnight Musical” is an opus that truly inspires, while “That Lady from Portland” starts out as pure Springsteen (think “Thunder Road”) before drifting on its own wonderful direction. If he were old to enough to write and record in the ‘70s, Baillie’s peers could easily have been Springsteen, The Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac.
Not one of the must-see things to do in the city this particular night, the crowd at the Lyric Theatre, some relaxing on comfy sofas, others sitting on elevated rafters or actually on their feet and dancing, took home an appreciation just why so many people flock to Hollywood. Some want to “make it” but others just want to showcase their talent to an audience that is truly appreciative of the time, blood, sweat and tears that go into creating honest and inspiring art.
Jose Martinez is the founder of LAdineNclub.com.