La Rocca, Temple Bar Music Centre, Dublin, 16th August 2001
Bjorn Baillie doesn't say much on stage. In fact, none of Dublin band La Rocca does. But volumes are spoken in their body language, which seems to scream: "We're here and we're bloody good. And don't even think about ignoring us".
Without doing a thing, their respective clothes also say much. Lead singer and guitar-wielding Bjorn is all urban cool with a combatty shirt and cords, while drummer Alan Redmond dresses down in his (hopefully) ironic "No Fat Chicks" T-shirt. Bass player Simon Baillie and keyboards Nick Haworth look like they're from different decades, the former all spiky haired and 80s cord blazer wearing; the latter resembling Crispin Mills in floppy hair and a stripy vest.
Fresh from an appearance at the South by Southwest festival in the US and some time in the studio, this is La Rocca's first Dublin gig in a while. And it shows. Their contempt for bland bands such as Travis is justifiable when you see how much energy is involved in their performance.
Opener 'Take my look off my face' sees Bjorn lepping all over the stage as if his guitar is suddenly possessed, while Nick causes my companion (who also plays keys) to get quite excited with his rather erratic ivory tickling.
Then it's onto 'Dependence theme', a song that's surprisingly well known in Dublin, despite the relative obscurity of its maker. Bjorn's raspy vocals sound fantastic, alternatively brutal and tender and occasionally cracking with emotion. They also do the single's b-side, the popular 'Waiting in the wings', with Nick's lovely twinkly intro. Possibly the highlight, though songs like '1902' and 'Four walls' suggest that La Rocca have a mischievous poppy side waiting to emerge. Which would be a great thing given their obvious knack for spotting a good melody.
The only weakness was the last song, 'When you feel like a bastard'. Maybe it's one of those epic-y type songs that demand a second listen, but, at face value, it didn't really work. Still, at least they're experimenting, keeping things interesting and taking a stand against the purveyors of bland rock.
La Rocca have the attitude and the swagger to be big. And with tonight they've proven they have the songs too.