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Baerwald Wastes No Time at the Roxy

Forget about 3-D. One D, singer-songwriter David Baerwald, was all it took Wednesday at the Roxy to give an arresting musical portrait of the cracks in Los Angeles’ social sidewalk. Supporting his solo debut album, “Bedtime Stories,” Baerwald matched the level he and ex-partner David Ricketts attained as David + David on the same stage in 1986, when their songs took on a dimension only hinted at in the duo’s lone album, the fine “Boomtown.”

Wednesday’s show featured the vivid imagery of a Joni Mitchell and the burning intensity of a Sean Penn (both pals of Baerwald’s who were among the enthusiastic crowd). Baerwald didn’t waste any time showing that he was willing and able to stand up to his past, starting with “Boomtown,” the most recognizable number in his catalogue, followed by “Liberty Lies,” one of the best songs from his new album.

Where many artists would have saved a one-two punch like that for a concert’s climax, Baerwald used it as a tone-setter. From there, the show just built in intensity, his strong band gaining force and depth with each number, through the frenzied conclusion of the bitter “Dance” and an unrecorded smoker titled “Under Pressure” (both featuring the Tower of Power horn section).

But it wasn’t just the band that fleshed out the songs. In this setting what came through was how much Baerwald himself is part of the world he surveys, not just an observer of it. His anger and confusion--and just as often his tenderness and yearning--are personal, not just tools he uses as a writer and performer.

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