Live rose to success on the strength of its anthemic music and idealistic, overtly spiritual songwriting, two hallmarks that earned the group frequent comparisons to U2. The group's roots stretched back to the early '80s.
Live (pronounced /ˈlaɪv/, rhymes with "five", often typeset as LĪVE) was an American rock band from York, Pennsylvania, composed of Ed Kowalczyk (lead vocals and guitar), Chad Taylor (lead guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass), and Chad Gracey (drums). Touring members have included Ed's younger brother Adam Kowalczyk as a rhythm guitarist, British keyboard player Michael "Railo" Railton, and guitarist Christopher Thorn of Blind Melon.
Live achieved worldwide success with their 1994 album, Throwing Copper, which has sold eight million copies in the US. The band had a string of hit singles in the mid 1990s including "Lightning Crashes", which stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for 10 consecutive weeks and the Modern Rock Tracks (now Alternative Songs) chart for nine weeks from February 25 to April 22, 1995.
The band has sold over 20 million albums worldwide. Their last three studio albums fared only moderately well in the US, but they continued to enjoy success in The Netherlands, South Africa and Australasia.
On November 30, 2009 Chad Taylor's personal blog revealed that what had initially been termed a "two-year hiatus" was more likely a permanent break-up, due to what he felt were inappropriate actions by Ed Kowalczyk.
Early history and Mental Jewelry: 1988–1992
Kowalczyk, Taylor, Dahlheimer and Gracey first played together at a middle-school talent show in York, Pennsylvania. They remained together throughout high school, playing new wave covers under band names such as First Aid, Club Fungus, Paisley Blues, Action Front and Body Odor Boys. Eventually they settled on the name Public Affection and recorded a self-released cassette of original songs, The Death of a Dictionary, in 1989. In 1990 they released an EP of demos produced by Jay Healy, titled Divided Mind, Divided Planet, via their Black Coffee mailing list. The band played regular concerts at CBGB in New York City, which helped earn them a contract with Radioactive Records in 1991.
Under the new name Live, the band entered the studio with producer Jerry Harrison (of Talking Heads) and recorded the EP Four Songs. The single "Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)" went to number nine on the Modern Rock chart and was followed by their debut album, 1991's Mental Jewelry, which Harrison again produced. Some of the album's lyrics, written by Kowalczyk, were inspired by Indian philosopher and writer Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Throwing Copper and mainstream success: 1993–1996
After appearances on the MTV 120 Minutes tour, at Woodstock '94 and on Peter Gabriel's WOMAD tour, Live's second album, Throwing Copper, achieved mainstream success. The album featured the singles "I Alone", "All Over You", and the number one US Modern Rock hits "Selling the Drama" and "Lightning Crashes". "Lightning Crashes" also stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for ten consecutive weeks. The band appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live, where they performed "I Alone" and "Selling the Drama".
The success of the singles eventually gained Throwing Copper the number one position on the Billboard 200 album chart on May 6, 1995, its 52nd week on the chart. It was the third longest gap between an album first charting and reaching number one, behind Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac in 1976 (58 weeks) and Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl in 1989 (64 weeks). It is Live's best-selling album, having sold eight million copies in the US alone. In 1995 the band appeared on MTV Unplugged. Their set included a cover version of Vic Chesnutt's "Supernatural".
Secret Samadhi and The Distance to Here: 1997–2000
The success of Throwing Copper meant that 1997's Secret Samadhi (co-produced by the band and Jay Healy) debuted at number one on the US album chart. It took its name from a state of Hindu meditation. The album contained four Modern Rock hit singles, but failed to match its predecessor's success, with sales reaching two million. The band performed "Lakini's Juice" and "Heropsychodreamer" from the album on Saturday Night Live.
Jerry Harrison returned as co-producer for 1999's The Distance to Here, which entered the US album chart at number four and featured the hit single "The Dolphin's Cry". In 2000, Live embarked on a co-headlining tour with Counting Crows. On that tour, Counting Crows' lead singer Adam Duritz often joined Live for their performance of "The Dolphin's Cry", while Kowalczyk sang a verse of "Hanginaround" with Counting Crows.
V, Birds of Pray, and Awake: The Best of Live: 2001–2004
On September 18, 2001, the experimental V (originally to be called Ecstatic Fanatic) was released to mixed reviews. The first single was "Simple Creed", which featured a rap from Tricky, but the events of 9/11, which occurred a week before V was released, meant that the melancholic "Overcome" received significant airplay and became the album's selling point. V only reached number 22 in the US and did not achieve gold status. Also in 2001, Live contributed a live version of the song "I Alone" to the charity album Live in the X Lounge IV. "Overcome" was used at the end of the second season finale of The Shield.
In May 2003, the band released the Jim Wirt produced, Birds of Pray, which reached number 28 on the US album chart, boosted by the unexpected success of the single "Heaven", Live's first U.S. Hot 100 hit single since "The Dolphin's Cry".
In November 2004, Live released a greatest hits compilation, Awake: The Best of Live. Awake included "We Deal in Dreams", a previously unreleased song from the Throwing Copper sessions, a cover version of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line", and a new version of their song "Run Away" with Shelby Lynne sharing lead vocals with Ed Kowalczyk. A deluxe version of the album included a DVD with 22 music videos and an interview with Ed Kowalczyk.
Songs from Black Mountain, rarities album, and live DVD: 2005–2008
In 2005, Live signed to Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Epic label. They released the album Songs from Black Mountain in June 2006. It only reached number 52 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The first single was "The River."
On season five of American Idol, finalist Chris Daughtry was accused of performing Live's version of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" and claiming it as his own interpretation. A week later, Daughtry acknowledged this was true and said that Live was one of his favorite bands. In May 2006, Live appeared on The Howard Stern Show to address this issue.
On September 14, 2007, the band released Radiant Sea: A Collection of Bootleg Rarities and Two New Songs, their first album since 1989 on their own Action Front Records label. The new songs were "Beautiful Invisible" and "Radiant Sea". Live recorded their first concert DVD in the Netherlands during two shows at the Paradiso on June 30 and July 1, 2008. Live at the Paradiso - Amsterdam was released on November 11, 2008 on DVD and CD. Also in 2008 the band headlined a US tour which also featured Blues Traveler and Collective Soul.
An unreleased Live song, "Hold Me Up", features in the 2008 Kevin Smith film Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Smith said, "I first heard (the song) in ‘95 when we were putting together the Mallrats soundtrack. It was actually in the film for the first test screening, but Live decided they wanted to hold onto it as a potential single off their next album...When I was editing Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back...I put in a request for it...again, I was denied. Third time, apparently, was the charm. Needed a song for that sequence in Zack and Miri and remembered the Live track. This time, the band signed off on us using the track. Took 13 years, but was worth the wait!" In spite of Smith's endorsement, the song does not appear on the movie's soundtrack album.
Hiatus and break-up
After a concert at The Palazzo in Las Vegas in June 2009, Live announced that the band would take a two-year "hiatus" to work on other projects. Kowalczyk recorded his solo album Alive and the other band members formed a group with Kevin Martin and Sean Hennessy of Candlebox called The Gracious Few. That band proceeded to record a self-titled debut album in California for release in September 2010.
On November 30, 2009, Taylor revealed that the "hiatus" was more likely a permanent split. He cited Kowalczyk's demand for a $100,000 "lead singer bonus" at the 2009 Pinkpop Festival and a 2005 contract that made Kowalczyk the sole signatory of the band's Black Coffee Publishing company as reasons for the break-up. These sentiments were conveyed in an e-mail to fans from the band (minus Kowalczyk) via the mailing list at FriendsofLive.com and on Chad Taylor's official blog. Taylor did, however, leave open the possibility of a new vocalist for Live. Kowalczyk's name has been removed from Live's official Facebook page and replaced by a question mark.
At the end of May 2010, the other three members of Live filed a lawsuit against Kowalczyk and their former business manager in the New York State Supreme Court. Among their demands were $225,000 in unpaid publishing money and royalties for songs written by the band that Kowalczyk sold on his website. It was also noted that in 2005 Kowalczyk presented the other band members with an ultimatum: Either agree that all songs on future Live albums would be credited as written by Ed Kowalczyk or he would leave the band. They chose the former and agreed that Kowalczyk would receive 70% of all royalties for future Live works, with the other three members receiving 10% each. The suit also alleges that a deal was struck for the band to complete another Live album, with $1m paid in advance. Kowalczyk should have received $700,000 and each of the other members $100,000. According to the lawsuit, Kowalczyk and their former manager withheld most of these funds from the band.
Mental Jewelry (1991) Throwing Copper (1994) Secret Samadhi (1997) The Distance to Here (1999) V (2001) Birds of Pray (2003) Songs from Black Mountain (2006)