There was a time when Live was making vital music that spoke to something primal in the human spirit. It was that rare sort of music that had a dark, mystical backbone infused with a spiritual message, but it never sounded preachy or anything like the awful genre that is contemporary Christian rock.
The heart, soul, and unmistakable voice of the band, Ed Kowalczyk was a seeker who crafted each album in a way that took listeners along with him on his search for something beyond the walls of reality we’ve all created for ourselves. Blending Hindu, Buddhist, and psychedelic imagery together to create worlds within each album, Live’s manifesto was one of spiritual growth by way of anything but the mainstream.
And then with the release of Live’s sixth album, something changed. Ed started finding answers to his questions in one of the last places many fans ever thought he’d go searching: the Bible. That album, titled Birds of Pray (see what he did there?), and its single “Heaven” were a challenge for longtime fans of the band. Birds of Pray took a very sharp turn from Live sounding like something dangerous and moving to something a lot more akin to Creed’s dreadful “Arms Wide Open.” The change in ethos went against everything the band had seemingly stood for until that point.
As tough as Birds of Pray was to stomach, Live’s next and final album together, the self-exploiting, contrived Songs from Black Mountain, was downright embarrassing. After a messy break up with the band involving at least one lawsuit and many broken relationships, Kowalczyk is four years deep into his solo career as, you guessed it, a full-blown Christian rock musician. He has already released two full-length albums in the genre, both of which have made their way to the top of Billboard’s Christian music charts.
But at least for the moment, Kowalczyk has taken a step away from the world of Christian rock and is embarking on a solo tour titled “I Alone Acoustic,” which will bring him to the Belly Up on December 10. As the hit-conjuring tour name implies, the set list appears to be comprised entirely of Live songs. Hopefully this return to the past will serve as the first step in a new direction for Kowalczyk or maybe, just maybe, a sign that there’s still a little life left in his former band.