Want to feel old? It has been twenty-one years since the release of Live's Throwing Copper. To commemorate the record that sold eight millions copies, the singer and lyricist of that album, Ed Kowalczyk, is touring an unplugged rendition of the Throwing Copper.
“It’s two guys on stage, me singing and the guitarist, but it feels a lot bigger.” The amicable Kowalczyk told New Times over the telephone. His show will come to Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room May 17. “It’s unplugged with a multimedia show with visuals for every song. We do the album straight through from song one to fourteen then I do a super encore that gives a broad picture of my career.”
Before that career started, Kowalczyk was a kid in York, Pennsylvania, who loved to sing along to radio songs by Simon & Garfunkel and the Beatles. In high school he started writing songs with three buddies who stayed together long enough to see Live become one of the biggest bands in the world, selling over 20 million albums. “At the time I just wanted to get played on the college radio station. I was a big fan of alternative college rock at the time like R.E.M., the Smiths, the Cure, and Peter Gabriel.”
Live’s debut album — 1991’s Mental Jewelry — earned them that coveted college rock airplay, but it did not prepare them for what was to come with Throwing Copper. “I was 22 during the recording.” Kowalczyk reminisced. “I was nascent. I was really excited just to be able to record. I wanted to make music that could move you in the heart and open doors of perception.”
Songs like “I Alone”, “Selling the Drama”, and “Lightning Crashes” were inescapable. Kowalczyk has an answer for their popularity. “My lyrics and melodies are important to people because I don’t write things that are time specific. I tried to be more cerebral and deal with questions of life.”
Kowalczyk credits his songwriting philosophy with why he can still connect to songs he wrote two decades earlier. “'Lightning Crashes' I wrote before I was married and had kids. Now I’ve been present for four births where I saw lightning really crash.”
Those children of his are all big fans of their dad’s music, but they’re more impressed by who else likes Kowalczyk’s tunes. “My 13-year-old loves Imagine Dragons. They’re big fans of Live, so when we saw them we got to meet them and that makes me the cool dad.”
Cooler still is Kowalczyk’s insistence to keep creating music even after leaving Live in 2009.
Despite a legal battle with former bandmates over whether Kowalczyk could use the name "Live" in his solo career, he’s released two solo full lengths and an EP with plans to soon return to the recording studio. “Stripping down acoustic for this tour is what’s inspiring me. I want the new EP to have the intensity of a rock record, but like the tour, I want it pared down and naked.”
Ed Kowalczyk. 7:30 p.m., Sunday, May 17, at Culture Room, 3045 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-564-1074 or visit cultureroom.net. Tickets cost $25 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.