Coral Sky Amphitheatre; West Palm Beach, FL • August 1, 2018
by Michelle Wilson
Whenever the founding lineup of a band gets back together, it’s always an exciting venture. When that band happens to be Live, the thrill factor is kicked up just a notch. The four original, multi-platinum, alternative post-grunge rockers split in 2009 and reconvened in late 2016, announcing 2017 tour dates. Currently on their third tour as support for Counting Crows, the boys from York, PA sounded and looked as fresh as ever.
The original lineup includes the positively magnetic frontman, Ed Kowalczyk (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Chad Taylor (lead guitar/backing vocals), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums/percussion) as well as touring rhythm guitarist Zak Loy (Ed Kowalczyk solo, Alpha Rev) and drummer/percussionist Robin Diaz (Daughtry, Courtney Love, Candlebox). On an intensely humid Florida summer evening, the band delivered a tremendous set at the Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Florida that ended all too soon. There’s no doubt that many people would have loved another hour of Live, this fan included. There’s also no doubt that many people just wanted to rip Kowalcyzk’s sweat-soaked shirt off his body and wring it out. The energy and intensity he still possesses is positively contagious. Having been a diehard fan of this band from the Mental Jewelry and Throwing Copper days, so much so that I saw them while pregnant – TWICE – I can honestly say that Kowalczyk has not lost ANY of his vocal ability or crowd appeal.
Taking the stage at 7:30pm for a 70-minute set and diving right in with “All Over You” (Throwing Copper, 1994, which many people may have forgotten was produced by Jerry Harrison of The Talking Heads), the band took the crowd on a wild ride of career-spanning hits. “It’s been a long time! Glad to be back here in West Palm Beach!” shared Kowalczyk. Playing four others off their 1994 monster second record including “Selling The Drama,” “I Alone,” “White, Discussion” and “Lightning Crashes” (encore), the band also delved into new territory with “Love Lounge,” an unreleased song from a forthcoming record. Touching upon only one cut from their first record, Mental Jewelry, the band did a stellar version of “Pain Lies On The Riverside.” Personally, I would have enjoyed hearing “Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)” and “The Beauty Of Gray,” but with such a short set, the music still did not disappoint.
Four songs in during “The Dolphin’s Cry” (The Distance To Here, 1999 – they also did “The Distance” off this record), there was an epic fail with Kowalczyk’s microphone, and there literally was no sound. Um, can we have a do-over? Because this is NOT the one where we want a mic meltdown. Fully aware that his mic had died and ever the consummate pro, Kowalczyk kept singing as he shrugged his shoulders and looked over at the crew. The crowd wasn’t having any of it, and promptly took over on lyrics until the damaged goods were replaced. It was a feel-good moment all around. When it ended he joked, “You can hear us now, right? That’s always the best part!”
Also peppered throughout the quick set were “Lakini’s Juice” and “Turn My Head” from the third record, Secret Samadhi (1997) as well as a Jimmy Reed cover, the bluesy “Baby What You Want Me To Do,” which has been done by just about everyone on the planet. But Live put their own fabulous spin on it and Kowalczyk informed the crowd that the band had spent an incredible week at iconic Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee recording it.
The three-song encore began at 8:22pm and included “Heaven” (Birds of Pray, 2003). Kowalczyk shared that he wrote it about his own daughter. He dedicated it to all the mothers and daughters in the audience and laughingly mentioned how the original band members have 13 children among them. It began with only Kowalczyk on acoustic guitar and then the rest of the band joined in later. The encore wrapped up with the aforementioned “Turn My Head” and “Lightning Crashes,” which could ONLY be the finale.
I’ve now attended SEVERAL shows in a row where “maybe” the second act should have been the “final” act. This DEFINITELY was one of them. The high energy, soaring guitars and mammoth vocals were owned by Live at this show. The remainder of the event dimmed in comparison. I love Live, and I always will. I hope they tour again as a headliner – I will be there.
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