It’s been 20 years since the release of Live’s epic debut album, “Throwing Copper”. Former lead singer and writer, Ed Kowalczyk, performed the album in “unplugged” fashion with talented guitarist, Zak Loy, to a thrilled crowd at the Hard Rock Casino in Coquitlam. “Throwing Copper” was one of my top three CD’s of the 1990’s and seeing it performed again was spectacular (I saw them in about 1997). When it came out, I learned every word to every song and practically idolized Ed Kowalczyk. The man doesn’t look to have aged a day since 1996 and that is probably the only thing I don’t like about him.
He decided to just play all the songs from the album in order, “no shuffle” as he put it, including the secret track. It was an interesting and original way to hear a concert, one I’ve never seen before. It’s an album that certainly lends itself to “unplugged” style and it was well done; simple, stripped down, emotional and real. There were more than just acoustic guitars, as well – electric and slide guitars were both putty in Zak Loy’s able hands. Interestingly, there was no percussionist on stage, but on the big screen there was an unknown musician (apologies) who employed all manner of items, not just musical instruments to create amazing backing sounds. He played the strings of a guitar at the tuning pegs, he played a canvas painting of a baby, he drummed on all manner of household items. It was very cool and something I’ve never seen.
Ed has one of my favourite voices in rock and it hasn’t aged either. He is incredibly soulful, whether quiet or loud and can hit a high note like no one I know. His soul comes out in both voice and lyrics and the combination is incredibly moving. Behind the stage, when not taken up by the mystery percussionist, the big screen showed powerful images during certain songs. The images ranged from war, Nazis and Jonestown during one to peace marches and Nelson Mandela during another. The images added powerful feeling to the songs and you can see the emotion on Ed’s face as he sings. The songs truly mean something to him – there are no shallow Ed Kowalczyk songs.
After the 14 songs of “Throwing Copper”, Ed and Zak left the stage, but the encore was a no-doubter. They returned shortly and hit fans with a couple from”Secret Samhadi”, a couple of Ed’s solo numbers and ended with the stunning “Overcome”. It was a very interactive concert, as well, with many fans singing along loud and proud to at least half the songs. Ed let the fans sing many parts alone and they didn’t disappoint – they knew the words and enjoyed the interplay. Ed Kowalczyk and Live were (and are) the antithesis of everything that much of today’s music is – vapid, overproduced crap about nothing. Ed has an opinion about most things and he’s willing to share it and own it. You don’t even have to agree with his viewpoint to love and appreciate that he has one and that he shares it in such a wonderful, musical way. The raw talent and rawer emotion make Ed Kowalczyk a one-of-a-kind artist and I’m thrilled that I got to see a one-of-a-kind show by him on this night.