ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 8, 1997
Three years ago, you could hardly tune into any commercial rock station in North America without hearing about the impending Woodstock 25th Anniversary concert. Judging by all the hype, it was going to be the rock show of the decade—if not the century—and the varied lineup of multiplatinum bands seemed to offer at least something for everyone.
At the time, Pennsylvania’s Live was riding high on the popularity of its Throwing Copper CD, and got signed on as one of the big event’s main attractions, to perform in front of a quarter-million people. But looking back, Live’s Chad Taylor doesn’t view his band’s participation in the event as a career milestone worth mentioning.
“I didn’t like it at all,” says the 26-year-old guitarist, calling from a recent tour stop in Detroit. “I wouldn’t do it again, let’s put it that way. I mean, playing Woodstock couldn’t match the intensity of playing a Live show—it came nowhere near it. There were a lotta great bands on the bill and a lotta great kids there, but as far as the overall intensity, I’m used to a much more musical environment, and I couldn’t pick that up at Woodstock. Just because there are a lot of people there doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gonna be a spiritual experience.”
Things should be a lot more “spiritual” when Live visits Vancouver to play the Rage on Saturday (March 8), a show that sold out in just 15 minutes. So why is a certified stadium band playing 1,000-capacity venues that it could easily pack 10 times over?
“I consider it sort of like our preseason,” says Taylor. “Live is a band that relies almost solely on its music in a live performance—we don’t do much in terms of production—so it’s important that the music be 100 percent, and smaller rooms seem to be a great place for us to hone the songs and get the set together. The object also is to give those people that were gonna rush out and buy the tickets first thing a chance to see us in a small venue, which is sorta rare these days.”
The local Live fanatics who dashed out to scoop up tickets to Saturday’s show probably already own copies of the band’s new CD, Secret Samadhi, and are aware of how different the underlying tone is from the previous Throwing Copper. That Jerry Harrison–produced disc sported easily accessible anthems such as “Selling the Drama” and “Lightning Crashes”, while the new one—named after a Yogic term for spiritual realization—is a much more brooding work. Secret Samadhi’s lack of commercial tendencies doesn’t worry Taylor much, though; he’s not the least bit concerned about it matching Throwing Copper’s sales of six million units.
“I don’t even really care,” he says. “I mean, of course there’s something inside of me that wants to be accepted and successful, but ultimately I judge our success on how well we wrote songs and how well we recorded the record. I try and keep the success factors in my control, and fortunately on this record we were very successful. I think it’s our best work yet, just because of the purity of the energy and emotion that’s on it.”
This time around, there’s some fairly dark sentiments expressed in singer Ed Kowalczyk’s vehement lyrics and the band’s edgy, jarring approach; anyone who saw Live play Saturday Night Live a couple of weeks ago can testify to its current intensity. Even the song titles themselves (“Rattlesnake”, “Ghost”, “Freaks”) have a foreboding quality. So were the Live members feeling particularly gloomy and angst-ridden this time around?
“I don’t think it’s necessary how we were feeling,” informs Taylor, “I just think it’s the direction or the emotion that seemed to want to come out of us at the time. You know, because of the fact that it is spiritually generated, our music tends to attach onto the more serious side of life. There is definitely some hope and inspiration there, but at the same time it also deals with the reality that we’re stuck in, which is maybe not always all that great.”
And what are Live’s serious-minded tunes about these days? It’s not easy to tell, sometimes. Take the opening verse from “Graze”: “People should not be afraid, we came to the earth to graze/No shortcuts to the face, this means you; a child gives you his shoes.” Taylor himself isn’t always sure what Kowalczyk is getting at, but he’s not bothered by that, either.
“I can honestly say that—speaking for Chad, Patrick, and myself—we never pay any attention to the lyrics. It’s like what happens when you’ve been singin’ a song that’s been on the radio for years, and one day you realize that you’ve been singing the wrong words. I’ve done that quite a few times with our own songs.”
Whether or not Live’s hardcore Vancouver fans have already deciphered the cryptic verses of Secret Samadhi, come Saturday they’ll no doubt be happily basking in the overall effect of its tunes. And the feeling should be mutual, as Live is a band that has thrived on its namesake experience ever since Taylor and Kowalcyk teamed up with bassist Patrick Dalheimer and drummer Chad Gracey while attending junior high school in the small town of York, Pennsylvania. A familial bond has kept the four original members intact for more than a dozen years.
“It’s very much like brotherhood,” says Taylor. “In the early days I think that we just had a common interest in music—which was furthered by the fact that we were all pretty bored—and then as the years went by it started turning into more of a songwriting type of experience. The more that we got into playing our own music, the more we fell in love with what we were doin’, and then it was impossible to turn back.”