It was about twenty years ago when a friend called to see if I wanted to check out this hot new Pennsylvania band playing a gig at the Jersey Shore. I passed on the show in order to take advantage of some cheap drink specials at a local dive – Stupid decision! A year later, Throwing Copper was released, and Live was a worldwide smash. Somehow in the ensuing decades, I never caught them “live,” but finally the stars seemed to align.
Ed Kowalczyk, the band’s charismatic singer and front man visited one of my favorite local venues, Hard Rock Hotel’s Velvet Sessions. This event was billed as Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, as he and his band mates are going through a rancorous separation. The rest of the original band is touring as Live, but now has a new lead singer. Kowalczyk is touring with his own band. With that iconic distinctive voice, it was a no-brainer.
Kowalczyk is still a first rate performer, but quite honestly his band was mediocre. The voice is the same and his on stage persona rocks, but this definitely isn’t the Live we knew and loved. The band took the stage and immediately ripped into a rocking version of “All Over You.” The crowd was rocking, but then came down a bit with “The Great Beyond” off of his 2010 debut solo album Alive. For most of the evening there was a similar ebb and flo. Fever pitch for the Live classics, then a lull for the solo efforts.
His interaction with the crowd was excellent, and we had a chance to experience a bit of the storyteller in him. He introduced his solo effort “Everlasting Love” as a song about his daughter, and “Heaven” a reflection on the women in his life. Kowalczyk offered a nice nugget off of the first album, introducing “The Beauty of Gray” by offering “good songs hold up.” He also spent a few minutes discussing a charity near and dear to his heart, World Vision, and actually auctioned off quick YouTube moments for folks willing to sponsor a child, rewarding them with instantaneous “Big Ed hugs.” It was a cool gesture.
For me, the highlights of the seventy minute set were an interactive version of “The Dolphin’s Cry” and “I Alone.” For their first encore, the band absolutely killed it with a romping version of “Lakini’s Juice” that had the crowd in a frenzy. But, then another dragging solo effort, this one the title track off of the new EP, “The Garden,” before closing the night with a stellar version of “Lightning Crashes.”
For those of you who have not been to a Velvet Sessions set, it actually takes place in the hotel lobby, and has a very cool vibe, and usually a surprisingly good sound mix. For this show, it was off a bit, possibly caused by a rumored airline snafu, where the band’s equipment was lost the day of the show. If so, certainly understandable.
All told, it was a decent show, but nothing spectacular. Sure, we heard a bunch of Live classics and they sounded decent and were welcomed by the packed crowd, but there was just something missing.
The setlist courtesy of a generous guy named Oliver is provided below.