Pennsylvania alt-rock giants Live made an emphatic return to London on Wednesday night to perform their first overseas show with new singer Chris Shinn.
The picturesque Koko in Camden provided the backdrop to fans curious to see whether Shinn (previously with Unified Theory) could replicate the unique persona, voice and legacy of original lead singer Ed Kowalczyk.
The future of the band was left in turmoil in 2009 after Kowalczyk left the band he had fronted for nearly 20 years. A bitter legal dispute followed concerning copyrights of songs, royalties and even use of the band’s name.
Kowalczyk was often portrayed in the press to be the villain of the piece. The remaining band members went so far as to form a new band, named ‘The Gracious Few’ – no doubt a direct dig at Ed’s acrimonious split from his long-time high-school friends.
After eventually recruiting Shinn to front the band, Live re-formed and have spent three years producing their brand new album entitled ‘The Turn’ – their first since 2006’s ‘Songs from Black Mountain’.
Dressed smartly in blue denim, a V-neck grey t-shirt and supporting more hair on his beard than Ed ever had on his head, Shinn unfortunately didn’t quite get off to the best of starts.
The crowd watched on a little uneasy as he nervously, almost painfully punched his way through “Pain Lies On The Riverside”. This was certainly no Ed. The question going through everyone’s mind though– was Chris good enough to sing the classics?
The fans needn’t have worried though as from the following song, Shinn made this concert his own.
“All Over You”, in complete contrast to the first song, was a rousing affair. Shinn had got rid of his acoustic guitar, took centre-stage and showed just what he could do with the mic. If one song instantly endeared Shinn to the fans, this was it.
The change in confidence was clear to see too as he delivered “Selling The Drama” with real poise and precision. Much more comfortable was the new album material from which the band treated us to four songs – “6310 Rogerton Dr”, “Siren’s Call” and new single “The Only Way Around Is Through”.
Shinn was at such ease now; he jumped into the crowd and sang his heart out amongst the fans. If this was Live’s way of winning over a sceptical crowd, Shinn had clearly won – especially with a wonderful rendition of “Freaks”.
Long-time stalwarts of the band Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer, Chad Gracey were in fine form too. Female fans screamed at the first few notes of the epic “Lightning Crashes” – a song that has always been close to my heart. If that was good then “The Dolphins Cry” brought the house down.
Earlier in the night, 90’s Brit-pop sensations Republica opened proceedings. Lead singer Saffron was in great form as she belted out classics such as ‘Drop Dead Gorgeous’ and the anthemic ‘Ready Yo Go’. It was a hugely entertaining set with more than a touch of nostalgia thrown in.
The night however belonged to Live.
The band are celebrating the 20 year anniversary of their classic 1994 album ‘Throwing Copper’ from which Shinn delivered amazing renditions of ‘Iris’, ‘Lakini’s Juice’ and ‘I Alone’. A huge standing ovation later – an encore of “White, Discussion” brought a fine end to a memorable evening.
If you thought Live without Ed Kowalczyk was doomed for failure, think again. The hugely impressive Chris Shinn showed there’s life in the old dog yet.
It may not be Live as we know it, but Live 2.0 are a fine band and a worthy chapter to their legacy.
Review by Vikram Sangar (@vsangar)
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