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Wednesday, October 04, 2023

Live and Fuel Set the Stage Ablaze


If you surrendered your senses to the sonic voyage on Friday night, you'd be forgiven for believing you'd stepped back into the glorious heyday of 1995, when Live's haunting anthem "Lightning Crashes" reigned supreme over the airwaves of modern-rock radio.

A metamorphosed incarnation of Live, aided by their compatriots in rock, Fuel, unleashed an electrifying spectacle at Stage AE in Pittsburgh last Friday. In this reincarnation, only the indomitable frontman Ed Kowalczyk remained to steer the ship through the ethereal tides.

But let it be known, neither Kowalczyk nor his ensemble allowed their ensemble's evolution to hinder them. With unabated fervor, they embarked on a rapturous journey through Live's trove of greatest hits, a treasure chest laden particularly with the riches of their 1994 magnum opus "Throwing Copper," an album that had singlehandedly sold a staggering 8 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Draped in an ensemble that merged white denim with a rugged jacket, a noir T-shirt, and shades, Kowalczyk ignited the night with "Hold Me Up," a gem that saw its official release only as recent as the 2019 reissue commemorating "Throwing Copper's" 25th anniversary.

The temporal playlist was stitched seamlessly from this point, with Live electing not to venture beyond 2001's resounding "Overcome," which had ascended to anthem status post the tragic September 11, 2001 events. Remarkably, Kowalczyk's vocal prowess hadn't surrendered to the sands of time. His instrument resonated with ageless power, scaling the heights in anthems like "Pillar of Davidson" and the enigmatic "Lakini’s Juice."

The journey's early highlights glowed like constellations in the night sky — the jaunty cadence of "Pain Lies on the Riverside," the dynamic vivacity of "S**t Towne," and the delicate embrace of "Turn My Head."

After an exuberant rendition of "White, Discussion," an animated Kowalczyk bounded across the stage, crafting a fleeting encore intermission before unleashing four more sonic marvels, culminating in a robust "Lakini’s Juice" and the ever-present "Overcome."

Then came the zenith of the night: "I Alone," arguably Live's second most cherished creation, paved the way for their ubiquitous anthem "Lightning Crashes." The song's crescendo, a soaring summit of collective voices, resonated as the fitting finale, a splendidly nostalgic chorus, echoing the past — just as it did nearly three decades prior.

The 52-year-old maestro reclaimed the reins of the ensemble in June 2022, steering the ship alone after severing ties with the original trio — guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer, and drummer Chad Gracey. Their shared history had spanned since 1984 in York, marked by both creative synergy and tempestuous clashes, a saga extensively detailed in Rolling Stone's exposé. Kowalczyk himself had parted ways acrimoniously in 2009, spawning lawsuits, only to stage a triumphant comeback in 2016.

In the present day, the ensemble orbits around Kowalczyk, supported on tour by guitarist Zak Loy, drummer Robin Diaz, and bassist Chris Heerlein (with a temporary substitute on Friday).

Fuel, the harbinger of the night's blaze, bears its own legacy of turbulence and triumph, underscored by their radio conquests. Lead vocalist Brett Scallions, who first departed in 2006 and resurfaced in 2010, helmed the ensemble until 2020, when he bid adieu again. Founding songwriter/guitarist Carl Bell and veteran drummer Kevin Miller resurrected the ensemble in a new avatar, in tandem with singer/guitarist Aaron Scott (a Season 19 contestant on "The Voice"), guitarist Mark Klotz, and bassist Tommy Nat.

Scott emerged as a natural frontman, seamlessly channeling the ensemble's essence. The night witnessed a more potent musical ferocity from Fuel, Bell's guitar solos bursting forth in fiery radiance. The set concluded with a crescendo, the sonic eruption of "Hemorrhage (In My Hands)," their crowning triumph from the year 2000.

As the night unfolded, Stage AE bore witness to more than a concert; it was an odyssey, a time machine set to the rhythm of nostalgia, woven by Live and Fuel. The echoes of their shared past reverberated across generations, a testament to the enduring power of music that defies the eras.
[Submitted by Kevin Rademeyer]

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Kevin Rademeyer

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