Back in the early 90s we were introduced to a new sound in music. The 90s were full of bands who rocked our world, from Nirvana to Green Day to uh… other bands… the 90s had a sound all its own. So much so that there are radio stations that play nothing but 90s music and totally get away with it.
One of the bands who lead the charge of a new sound into the future was Live, and they didn’t disappoint (much, unless you’re not a fan, then a lot). They came out with an album and it was an album. Then they hit their stride with their second album “Throwing Copper,” an album that would push them to the forefront of rock stardom.
With hits like “Lightning Crashes,” “I Alone,” “All Over You” and “White, Discussion” they dominated air waves for almost a decade. Then they put out a follow up album, “Secret Samadhi” and it produced a couple more hits. After that they dropped off the face of the earth. Just kidding, they put out a couple more albums but had little to no success.
Through the 2000s they didn’t do much of anything. They toured with a bunch of other has-been bands who also had their time in the spotlight but they all needed each other on tour to bring in a worthy audience at all of the race tracks and baseball post-game shows they performed at. They also brought in Blues Traveler as insurance to make sure people showed up. And then finally, Live broke up.
Well, they didn’t exactly break up. Singer Ed Kowalczyk decided he wasn’t feeling the music anymore and needed something to spark his creative Lakini’s juices. So he told the band he wanted $100,000 as a “lead singer bonus.” Because that’s apparently something that exists.
The band scoffed and he fled to do his own solo project, saying in later interviews that he wasn’t feeling the music and that he wanted to do something fresh to reinvigorate his career. Or, $100,000. You know, either one.
Here, Ed is seen doing an interview at a rock station where he promotes his new album, his new band, and then plays an acoustic song off of the new album that amazingly sounds entirely like one of the first hits he had with Live, the stuff he’s trying to break away from.
So he set out on an acoustic tour where he performed some new material and uh… a bunch of old stuff he had done with Live. And then he put out a solo album where he recorded with a bunch of studio musicians a dozen or so tracks that all sound like Live, only less Live, and he called it “Alive” because he’s trying to break away from Live. He should have just called it “Not Live” or “Studio Recorded” or “Less Than Live,” not to be confused with “Less Than Jake.”
To recap, Ed decided he wasn’t happy with the stuff his friends and band mates of 20+ years were coming up with (even though he had a say in the writing process), so he took his unique voice that when heard everyone knows he’s the dude from Live, recorded new music that could easily pass off as Live, only shittier, blander, and sounding like everything else that’s out there (except for his voice) and is trying his damndest to be viewed as fresh and new while sounding anything but. Oh, and he’s still playing the old Live stuff.
His old band Live decided they still loved music and still want to, you know, put food on their tables and pay their bills, so they hired a new lead singer and continue to do shows. Eventually they’ll put out a new album, so they say, but in the meantime they’re playing gigs with the old set lists and a new singer. Fans of Live enjoy watching videos of the new singer playing with the band and blasting on how shitty he is and how not Ed he is. Some fans get it and say what needs to be said about Ed, but the majority are hating on the new guy, Chris Shinn.
One thing a lot of people are getting down on him for, besides not sounding exactly like Ed, is fucking up lyrics. You can see on one video how he does in fact forget some lyrics. Sure, he was hired to be a lead singer for a band who has hits and he should know the fucking lyrics before attempting to sing the songs in public for money. But to be fair, he’s new, probably a bit nervous singing some other dudes shit, and the audience is singing along through the entire song, much louder than he is. I’m sure that would fuck just about everybody up. Hell, the Rolling Stones played a Super Bowl halftime show a few years back and Jagger was fucking up lyrics that he himself not only wrote but has been singing for the better part of a century. Shit happens.
I’ll say this about Shinn. He’s a singer, obviously for hire or he wouldn’t have been recruited to sing for Live. He does a pretty damn good job of singing Ed’s songs and he’s got some decently big shoes to fill. Ed has an amazing voice and sung some of the most popular songs to come out in the last 20 years. And it’s not easy for a band to replace a key member of the group such as the lead singer and get away with it. Very few bands over the years have successfully done that, like AC/DC for example. Other bands try and try again, like Van Halen, and just never get it as good as they had it.
On the flip side, who was the last singer from a band to break away and have a successful career? Rob Zombie?
Historically, when a lead singer breaks away from the band that got them famous to have a solo career, they never see the type of success they once had. Just off the top of my head, here’s a list of singers who told their bands to fuck off, had a horrible solo career, and in some cases went crawling back to their old band to beg for forgiveness:
Vince Neil from Motley Crue
Scott Stapp from Creed
Travis Meeks from Days Of The New (not reunited, and probably never will)
Gavin Rossdale from Bush
Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins
Who knows? Maybe Live will once again be in the spot light after having been out of it for a decade. Maybe they’ll fall by the wayside with Shinn and be just another band to lose a key member and replace him and not do nearly as well. Even still, maybe they’ll reconcile with Ed when Ed gets his head out of his ass and they’ll put out a new album with tons of publicity and they’ll be on top again. After all, it seems that THAT is all that Ed wants. To be on top again. Because if he’s actually wanting to be fresh and reinvigorated, he’s not doing a very good job at it.
“Is that a new Live song? It sounds kind of bland. Like it’s them, but it’s not them. What’s up with that?” – Someone listening to the radio and hearing a new Ed Kowalczyk song. Just kidding, none of his solo songs will ever be played on the radio.