One thing I cannot fault about my parents’ generation is their music loyalty.
The music they grew up listening to is the music they’ve still got on solid rotation today. Just think about the music your pops was playing the last time he had you over for Sunday lunch. Guns ‘n Roses, right? Tracy Chapman, yes?
We also see this, in a big way, in the artists that we bring down to perform — Rodriguez, Brian McFadden (Westlife), Boney M, The Cure, Dire Straits, most recently A-ha… the list goes on.
Our love for legacy artists doesn’t die, much less wane, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Multi-platinum selling, Billboard Chart-topping American rock band, +LIVE+, are one such legacy band. And hot on the heels of the announcement of their return to South Africa to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their best-selling record, Throwing Copper, lead singer Ed Kowalczyk (pronounced ka-wohl-chick, I’ve been practicing) hits me up to chat about musical things then and now.
And about how much they love South Africa, of course.
We fall into conversation and right away I’m curious about the first musical moment — vinyl, CD, live show — that sparked the desire to pursue this music thing. He doesn’t pause for long before he recalls, “Oh man, my first actual record was a cassette and it was Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and I was about nine years old… but my first real, like important musical experience was my first concert that I chose to go to, like not taken by my parents,” he laughs with childlike authority.
The concert in question was U2’s Joshua Tree Tour to promote the release of their fifth studio album in 1987. He remembers fondly, “I was just a junior in high school but that concert changed my life.” They’d been a band for about two years, but that concert helped decide how seriously they’d take it, “I remember coming back from that U2 concert, going up to the guys and saying, ‘We’ve gotta do this. We’re gonna do this. We’ve gotta get into this, hard!’”
Kowalczyk talks about how they started out an average band playing R.E.M and The Cure covers, subsequently started writing their own songs, and how their debut demo tape went viral, “We had this demo tape of about four or five songs and it spread like wildfire in our town and the town over from us.”
Excitedly he continues, “I remember we played a concert at a small rock club in Pennsylvania where we’re from. We had all these people that came out, and they were singing every lyric to every song on that demo and I remember, we got off stage, and we just looked at each other kinda like, ‘Woah, that was cool, like I think we’re pretty good,’ you know?”
A year and a half later they signed a record contract, released their first album, Mental Jewelry, and then suddenly they were all over MTV. And then they were famous, “I would say that happened pretty quickly for us, and then we realized like this is now an international band. We gotta figure out how to do this, you know?”
I wonder what it must be like to perform 25-year-old music, and he tells me about his connection with the lyrics, “I would say they mean more now, maybe than ever. A song like “Lightning Crashes”, I wrote that song before I had any kids and now I have four. I’ve been to like four births, so you know, just a whole different perspective on that song.”
He adds, “I know I share that with a lot of fans ‘cause they say the same thing, ‘These songs still connect with [them], maybe more now that [they’re] in like [their] forties, or fifties, or thirties or whatever.”
Having achieved so much over the 25 years of their on and off career, I ask about goals they feel they haven’t achieved yet, and he keeps it real and simple, “My goals are really simple, to write that next song that I haven’t written yet, you know? It’s still such a challenging experience and process. It never gets old. You never go, ‘Oh yeah I’m good at this now, I don’t need to work on it’”.
After the announcement of their return to South Africa, Pretoria fans went so wild that an extra show had to be added to their tour. Kowalzcyk elaborates, “It’s the relationship that [South Africa has] with some of the music — they wanna consume it, and they wanna make it their own and be inspired by it. It’s just been this incredible relationship and interest in the band for so many years and really, it hasn’t waned.”
Kowalczyk doesn’t give too much away when he concludes, “We’ve been doing the Throwing Copper Tour for a while so by the time we get down [to South Africa], we’ll have it all ticking.”
Tickets for +LIVE+ in Pretoria (November 6 & 7) and Cape Town (November 10) are available through Computicket. Saffers, you know what to do.