A dolphin somewhere cried when it was announced that LIVE was not only back together, but coming to the Hunter Valley.
To perform. Live.
The Pennsylvania rockers became a household name with the release of their 1994 album Throwing Copper which sold 8 million copies in the US alone. Lightning Crashes was the biggest-selling single from the album and it is a song still close to frontman Ed Kowalczyk’s heart.
He tells Weekender “all the lyrics and melodies in LIVE are mine and pretty much most of the music, too”.
That might explain how he is able to sing each song with such passion and conviction.
“When I wrote Lightning Crashes about birth and death and the circle of life I was 22 or 23, and it was long before I had any kids. Now I’ve had four kids so I feel like I have a deeper experience of the song, a more grounded experience of the song, if that makes any sense.
“It’s more real. I know I share that with a lot of fans. They’ve said so much to me like ‘Hey this is the music that I have lost touch with but it actually means more to me now than it did in the ’90s’. And that’s a beautiful thing to hear.”
The band has had a few ups and downs over the years, going on hiatus in 2007 and admitting in 2009 that the original line-up was no more. Kowalczyk jumped ship however LIVE continued with new vocalist Chris Shinn and released the album The Turn in October 2014. Kowalczyk rejoined the band in December 2016.
LIVE are well and truly back in business now, though, and have been putting in the hard yards on the US festival circuit.
I ask Kowalczyk if it has been a baptism of fire playing on a musically diverse festival line-up to people who didn’t know LIVE when they were at their peak and selling out stadiums. He agrees.
“We started our reunion shows, I guess you could call them, back in May and right from the beginning we were just so thrilled to be back on stage together and seeing the fans so elated. It just gets better and better each show we play.
“We’ve probably done 15 or 20 concerts so far, not a whole lot, but we’ve been focusing a lot on festivals so we’re really excited to get Down Under and expand the set. To get our own shows going again.
“At a festival there’s not a whole lot of room to mess around with the soundcheck and you’re on stage about 60 minutes – we call it the throw and go. You just jump up there and see what happens.”
Is it humbling, too, playing to a new crowd and introducing the band’s music to a new generation?
“Absolutely,” he replies. “Look, I love festivals as we’ve played with some really great artists, people I haven’t seen before. It’s inspiring as well. Challenging but inspiring.
“A festival crowd is not 100 per cent LIVE fans – far from it. There are a lot of people who were too young to remember us the first time around. On the other hand we’ve had an incredible response and it’s a testament to how the music has remained important to people over this many years.”
The spiritual undertones of LIVE’s music add to the emotive appeal of the songs. Kowalczyk says he has always been interested in “religion, spirituality and philosophy, that kind of thing”.
“I like asking the big questions,” he says. “Because of that, I’ve always had something to write about. Music is an outlet for me to explore what I’m interested in. It has been since day one.”
LIVE is working on new music and Kowalczyk says it is an “interesting time” to be a songwriter and a musician. A lot has changed since the 1990s and not all of it is for the better.
“We reunited at a time in the world when everything seems so up-ended in a lot of ways,” he says.
“The things that we’re used to, in every way, are upside down. Take the music industry, and from our perspective the music business itself. It’s so different than it used to be. As we’re moving forward and looking at putting out new music I’m constantly thinking ‘Well, what does LIVE say in 2017? What does it sound like? What does it feel like?’ Hopefully we will have something out next year.”
Kowalczyk quotes a former professor of his who described LIVE’s music as “soulful resistance”. He reckons it is LIVE in a nutshell.
“There’s plenty of anger and bewilderment out there, sure. But LIVE is not a band that has been outwardly political, rather more inward looking – what are the things that we can do in the politics of our own soul that can translate into a better world?
“When it comes to how the music industry today works, I go back and forth, depending on the day. I recognise that this is a whole new world and maybe we don’t need the pressure of a whole new album.
“And then some days I think I want to stay true to the old paradigm of releasing a record every two years and then going on tour. That’s how we grew up. And on other days I like the idea of being able to get something out quickly that’s really hot off the press.
“It would be nice to try to do both. Release a few things and then work up to an album. But one step at a time though, right?”