Live never intended to take more than 15 years to release its first concert CD and DVD, “LIVE at the Paradiso—Amsterdam,” but, in hindsight, Ed Kowalczyk is sure glad it did.
“It was happening a few times before and it just didn’t feel right. This is perfect,” says Live’s front man and primary songwriter Ed Kowalczyk of the two shows recorded June 30 and July 1, 2008 before a fervent Dutch audience. “The band is playing better than ever. The timing captured the band at a great moment in our career.” And what a career it is. Since forming in 1985, while in middle school in York, Pa., the quartet has sold more than 20 million CDs worldwide and is one of the most popular and enduring alternative rock bands of the past two decades. Its probing, multi-layered, intense tunes, such as “I Alone,” “Lightning Crashes” and “Selling the Drama,” provide the perfect anecdote for today’s often lightweight musical fluff.
In addition to the band’s stellar, dark cover of the Johnny Cash standard, “I Walk the Line,” the “Paradiso” CD includes two new Live studio songs: “Forever” and “Purifier.” “Forever” is a mid-tempo meditation on faith and loyalty. “I was just wanting to do a song that has that message of holding on; ‘’the darker the night, the brighter the dawn. All these things move in seasons that feel kind of barren. But you find yourself after that period, coming into a reaping period.” “Purifier” is a full-on rave up that was completed in two days. “Chad threw the riff down. I’d been listening to a lot of gospel, blues and old guitar evangelism. We started in the morning and by the next evening we had it. It’s a pretty awesome whirlwind. You feel the explosion in your gut.” The track features Blues Traveler’s John Popper, with whom Live toured last summer. As strong as Live’s songs are on disc, the best, truest way to capture the band’s charismatic, transformative music is in concert. They are named Live, after all.
“If you’ve never seen the band in concert, this DVD makes a strong case for you to do just that!” says Kowalczyk of his hopes for the CD/DVD. “These guys are kind of quiet, and then as soon as the PA comes on, they totally lose it.” He’s talking about his best friends and band mates, guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey, whom he’s know for most of his life. “By the time we got a record deal, we’d formed our personalities together. When the going got tough and we got famous and there were pressures and stuff, everyone had their role defined already. With Live, there are no surprises between the four of us.”
The video gives fans total access to the quartet on the road, allowing an unprecedented look into the 22 hours spent off-stage every day. “It grounds the DVD in reality. This is really who we are,” Kowalczyk says.
With a deeply devoted fan base around the globe, Live could have picked virtually anywhere to record the DVD/CD, but ultimately settled on Amsterdam. “Amsterdam just has a great vibe no matter who you are,” Kowalczyk says. “Our fans here are super crazy about the band. Also, the idea of doing it internationally is another dimension, another color for our American fans. It was just a little bit more exotic.”
The band loved the Paradiso because it provided an architectural analog to their sound. “The venue has built-in drama,” Kowalczyk says. “It’s an old Protestant church. It ties in with our ethos of a universal, spiritual message and to elevate the energy.”
From the opening song, Live pounces on the stage with a ferocity, passion and purpose few bands possess. “My goal every night is to break down the boundaries between the fan and me. We just never stop trying to connect,” Kowalczyk says. That trusting communion between band and audience is evident throughout, especially during such moments as “I Alone” when the crowd takes over the song. Reinventing its classics on stage is a constant endeavor as the songs evolve and take on new meaning. “Take a song like ‘Lightning Crashes’,” Kowalczyk says. “As soon as I had my first baby about six years ago, I feel it’s even more important to me now because I’ve been there. This song now means something totally deeper to me. That’s what I love about doing this for a living, if you get a good song, you really grow with them and they grow with you. They have their own kind of life and interact with you over the years.”
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All Over You
Selling the Drama