If you were listening to alternative rock music in the 1990’s, you probably know the band Live, who rose to fame in 1994 when they released their breakthrough album, “Throwing Copper”. The band is from York, Pennsylvania, and features Ed Kowalczyk (lead vocals), Chad Taylor (backing vocals, lead guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass), and Chad Gracey (drums).
At the time, songs like “Lightning Crashes”, “All Over You”, “I Alone”, and “Selling The Drama” were all over rock radio, and the band was popping up everywhere, from Saturday Night Live, to Woodstock ’94, and MTV’s 120 Minutes.
Throwing Copper hung around on Billboard for what seems like forever, and the songs just refused to go away. In fact, Throwing Copper is one of those albums that I still see on a regular basis whenever I go to someone’s house, or to The Beat Goes On here in Canada, where cds are still amazingly bought and sold.
What I also find amazing is this – two and a half decades later, you can turn on any rock radio station in North America, and these same songs are in regular rotation, along with songs like “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)”, from their debut album, and then “Lakini’s Juice”, and “The Dolphin’s Cry” which came out a few years later on their follow up to Throwing Copper, called Secret Samadhi.
Later hits include “Simple Creed” and “Heaven”. These songs simply have an immense staying power, and this I think is owed to Live’s ability to write not just a catchy song, but an emotionally charged epic rock song that people feel compelled to listen to.
Trying to Google “Live”
There are a few things about Live that spring to my mind when I think about the band. One is that they have probably the least Google-friendly name of any band I know besides maybe X.
When searching for Live on Youtube or Google, there’s a bit of a problem, because the word “Live” is used for so many things. You type in “live band”, and Google might know what you’re looking for, or it might think you’re looking outlook.com, or for any old “live” band, in which case there’s a million other bands that fit that description. That said, I think Live is a great band name, but it came about prior to the internet and search engines.
Why So Serious?
The other thing that pops into my head is how “serious” Live always seemed. There are certain bands that seemed or seem to take being in a band quite seriously, like they were out to save the world by addressing various political and social issues. U2. The Police. Coldplay. Live is among these sorts of bands, I believe. This would draw some people in to their gravitas, and had others poking fun at the band for being so stone-faced and seemingly unamused by everything.
Here is a picture of Live trying to look like they’re having fun. Ed is the closest here to smiling, however I would say he looks to be unperturbed at best.
I think this tendency towards seriousness mainly comes across in the promo material for the band, and, to be honest, this is something 90% of rock bands do anyway, but Live just does it particularly well. To make matters worse (or better, depending on your POV), lead singer Ed Kowalczyk liked to stalk the stage shirtless and gyrating like he’s ready for some tantric lovemaking after the show. For the female fans of the band, I would figure Ed’s moves are always a highlight of their set. I mean, I can only imagine. I think Elvis might approve as well. For me personally? – I guess it’s fine, I don’t now. I just dig the music, man.
Yeah, I think a lot of us who grew up in the ’90’s took Live to be a fairly self-serious group, but it seemed to suit their music. With their combination of eastern music, ambiguous spirituality, social and political criticism, and deeply personal lyrics, combined with a tight rhythm section, Live has too much serious rocking out to do to jerk around like they’re the Bloodhound Gang or Blink 182.
That said, actually, I always thought of their music as being relatively fun, rather than particularly grave or ultra-political to the point where you can’t even enjoy the tunes. I’d describe the music of Live as hard rockin’, exotic, intense, personal, poetic, poignant, sexy, and, at times, a bit snarky. Like their song, “Waitress”…this song is a bit snarky, don’t you think?
When the band is being interviewed, or is talking to the crowd from the stage, they come across as less serious than publicity photos might indicate, and more like the friends that met in middle school in York, Pennsylvania and have been jamming together ever since.
Band of Brothers
Live is one of those bands that come across like a group of brothers, and, like all brothers, there is the occasional squabble. Squabble is putting it lightly. Brothers occasionally try to kill each other. Not literally, but…sometimes verbally, and…actually, sometimes even literally.
Like that time in 2010 when the band sued each other as a result of some legal dispute over publishing rights (I think, don’t quote me on that), which lead to a breakup of epic proportions where Ed was eventually replaced with another sound-alike singer, ie. Chris Shinn of Unified Theory.
Now, admittedly the replacement of Ed with a new guy was a contentious move by all accounts, but the truth is, I think, that Live, as a band, is far too good at what they do to let the loss of any individual member totally destroy them. As a result, Chris Shinn did a great job “standing in” for Ed, and the 2014 Live album, The Turn, was actually pretty good and fans to this day can’t deride it as they might like to. If that album sucked, there would have been hell to pay from fans, but the remaining band members actually pulled it off and the album is still accepted by fans as being somewhere between decent and awesome.
Meanwhile, Ed was off doing his solo work and produced some pretty stellar music during this time apart from the band, such as he did with his first solo effort, “Alive”, which charted as a Christian rock album, and is, by all counts, a solid all around effort. Ed has spoken about this time doing his own thing as an evolution of sorts.
The Boys Are Back
Like any truly great band, there’s no substitute for the original lineup. Hence, fans were hankering for Live to get back together ever since their bitter break-up. After what went down with all the barbed remarks, you’d expect such a reunion to be nigh impossible, but it actually has happened! All four original members of Live reunited in 2016 and here we are in 2017 with new tour dates.
Here is the band rocking out on New Years Eve, 2016. As you can see, the band is glad to be back and the fans are pumped for it as well!
Of course there’s a lot more to say about Live than I have covered here, but this is, after all, an overview – so I’m cutting my rambling short before it gets out of hand.
Wrapping up, all I can say is that I’m sure Live’s fans hope that this next phase of their career is as amazing as their first. The staying power of their songs speaks for itself, and now that the band has reunited and is playing shows again, I hope I can get out there and see them.