I just got back from the best concert I’ve seen in quite some time. It was certainly the best of the six Live I’ve seen. The boys from York came to Penn State for the first time in about five years to play the Bryce Jordan Center.
Let me first explain my history with the band Live. This is a band I have seen in concert at many of the pivotal moments of the past twelve years of my life. Live was the first concert I ever saw, when I was in my first year of high school. Back then, bands could play Rec Hall and tickets were first available to people with Penn State IDs. Luckily, my mother working at Penn State allowed me to get tickets, which was a big deal to a fourteen year old kid. Ignoring my parents’ instructions, I went down to the general admission section (what we called “the pit,” back in those days) and rocked out to Live shortly after Throwing Copper came out and before it really blew up with the single “Lightning Crashes.” It was the first of many shows I would see in my life.
Live was also there when I moved to Ithaca and started grad school right before Birds of Pray came out, when the song “Heaven” was still called “Hell,” as I recall.
Live also has associations with three of the last four girls I have dated, including my first relationship to last over a year. If you are reading this, don’t worry, ladies, no single Live song was associated with more than one of you. The song “Dance With You” in particular reminds me of a moment I was caught in at that Live show in 2000.
So all of that history leads me to the show tonight. Lee and I waited patiently on the floor of the Jordan Center, set up in the much preferred side stage configuration, for Live to come out. Shows at the Jordan Center are always plagued by waiting at least half an hour between the opening act and the headliner. It was interesting to note that the crowd was diverse with regard to age. I think Live is one of those bands that will date me at some point, as they will be around for a long time and I can say I remember them back in ‘94. Some of these damn kids at the show were probably still unable to read back when Throwing Copper put Live on the music map.
The lights dimmed and some music started over the loud speakers for atmosphere. The band entered the stage and with a few clicks of Chad Gracey’s drumsticks, they blasted into “All Over You,” a song they often like to start with. At that moment, I already realized that this was going to be one spectacular show. Towards the end of the song, we all got to sing: “our love is like water, pinned down and abused for being strange…”
The band members looked really excited to be there, particularly the guitarist Chad Taylor, who, along with James Black from Finger Eleven, I find to be the coolest looking guitar player out there. “All Over You” was followed by the first Live single from Throwing Copper, “Selling the Drama,” which was the first Live song I ever heard (and fell in love with immediately). I will now, in a format championed by some friends, go over some of the show’s highlights.
- The version of “Lakini’s Juice” was just…wow. It was absolutely rockin’. I have never heard the song sound that good.
- Before the concert, I thought to myself, “what is one song I’d like to hear that I haven’t heard them play in awhile?” The song that came to mind was “Iris.” As I’m standing there at the show, I hear that distinctive guitar chord followed by the run of bass notes that leads to “I liked the way my hand looked on your head.” They played it! The song I was hoping to hear, they played. And they played it damn well.
- The songs from the new album, Songs From Black Mountain sounded like some of the best work Live has done, and that is saying a lot, as they have done some fine work. Four songs from the album made their way into the set list, including “The River,” “Mystery,” “Sophia,” and “Show.” No doubt I will be picking up the new album when it comes out on June 13.
- “The Dolphin’s Cry,” a song that has found itself with certain associations in my head was great, with the audience singing along to every word. “Heaven” was the same way, with Ed saying “I look at my daughters and I believe,” reflecting the latest addition to his family. I wonder what he would have done if his second child had been a boy….
- I turn to Lee after the first song of the encore, and said, “You know what would be cool? A song from ‘Mental Jewelry.’” Ask and ye shall receive, in the form of “Beauty of Gray.” Ed is right, we do all need some gray in our lives.
- After two songs in the encore, a chant of “Shit Towne” rose from the audience. A couple of the band members laughed and then Ed signaled for an electric guitar (this is the only song on which he plays electric these days). “This song is a request from the front row,” he says. And why shouldn’t they play it? After all, last time they were in State College, they said the song was about our town.
- Before and during the last song, “White, Discussion,” Ed led the audience through a chant of “We Are”…”PENN STATE!” He seemed truly blown away by the volume level the crowd reached, remarking, “you have to hear that from up here once in your life.” He then invited a member of the audience up on stage just to do that. Mike seemed to enjoy getting a chance to stand on stage with such greats of rock music, exchanging high fives with a few of them before walking off stage.
I came out of this show saying simply, “ummm…wow.” It ended all too quickly, but it was just the energization I needed. Live has never disappointed in the six times I’ve seen them, and I hope I get to see them six more times. I do recommend you pick up Song from Black Mountain when it comes out June 13. Until then, if you reading this own any Live, listen to one of their songs right now.