For an artist born and raised in Ontario, Adam Bailie’s music is entirely indicative of the West Coast— somehow laid back and energetic at the same time.
It’s the kind of music that feels at home in a trendy downtown coffee shop, yet stirs one to their feet when performed live. Defying the restrictions of genre, it’s understandable why he is often compared to Dave Matthews or Jack Johnson, yet those comparisons somehow fall short.
Joined on stage by veteran musicians Reid Hendry and Jeff Child, the former coming out to BC with Adam in 2007 and the latter joining the duo in 2012, there is an immediate sense of familiarity that only comes with time and hard work shared by like-minded artists.
The three performed together as reggae-roots band Watasun before branching out into other projects, reuniting to tour the Island together in support of Adam’s new release, “Beachhead.”
The defining quality of their live performance is undoubtedly Adam’s unique, rapsy croon— less gravelly and more akin to waves rolling over a pebbled shore. Sung in an almost conversational tone, Adam’s lyrics cover the gamut of the human experience, from remorse over lost love to embracing the moment you’re in.
With his characteristic warmth and insight, they’re as relatable and genuine as catching up with a childhood friend. That connection is strengthened by Adam’s way of engaging the crowd with a relaxed friendliness, as if there was nowhere else he’d rather be.
A testament to the skill of Hendry’s percussion, including the steel pan and cajon, and Child’s bass, Adam’s guitar weaves through each tune with a fluidity that lends greatly to the easy-going nature of his music.
Like Willie Nelson, it’s as if Adam hears an entirely different rhythm in his own head, moving from one phrase to the next in a way that would likely make you scratch your head on paper, yet works brilliantly in practice. With elements of reggae and funk layered with rootsy folk and an unmistakable grasp of pop elements, the three blend together a soundtrack reminiscent of beach fires, bottles of wine, and great company shared until the sun rises.
In the studio, Adam enjoys utilizing modern hip-hop recording techniques and he brings that to his live performances through use of an on-stage vocal processor and loop pedal operated with his trademark bare feet. In an age where Top 40 pop music is saturated with heavily-processed vocals, an artist using auto-tune as an instrument with skill and intention is refreshing, to say the least.
Adam incorporates a throat-singing technique that when run through the processor could easily be mistaken for a woodwind instrument or horn. Recording a loop on the fly allows Adam to take his focus off the guitar and engage directly with the crowd, further drawing the audience in by encouraging them to sing back and forth playfully, or taking the opportunity to dance and kick his feet, shaking his knees like Elvis Presley after hearing the Beach Boys for the first time.
The final takeaway from the Jan. 20 performance at the Gate House Theatre was that great music doesn’t have to be pretentious; rather, it can— and probably should be— be fun and approachable. For an artist that can boast a Top 40 hit and numerous commercial credits, including a world-wide ad campaign, he is gracious and humble.
To experience a show like that in a room with as much character as the Gate House was exceptional and undoubtedly sets the stage in a big way for a new year of performing arts on the North Island.
– Chadwick Green article