The last Alive at Five concert of the this summer season was engulfed in heat and oppressive humidity. The sweat was streaming off of everyone in attendance, including the stagehands and the staff from the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.
Behind the large, metal-framed and tarp-topped stage at Albany’s beautiful Riverfront Park, Ed Kowalczyk, former frontman for multi-platinum ’90s rockers Live, was surrounded by his bandmates, as they stood outside of their air-conditioned trailer. Wiping the sweat off his brow, Kowalczyk flashed a warm grin at the fans standing off in the distance, who were waving and calling out, “Ed, Ed, Ed…”
Running up the steps, the band commandeered the stage, launching into Live’s perennial crowd-pleaser, “All Over You.” The 40-year-old Kowalczyk traversed the stage with the speed and animation of a whirling dervish while singing the emotional anthem.
The three-piece back-up band churned through “The Great Beyond” while Kowalczyk – with his guitar slung over his shoulder – sang and played the song’s rhythmic thrust.
The sun facing the stage beat down hard, draining the energy of the assembled crowd with the exception of a small mass of people pushed up against the steel barricade in front of the stage, singing along as an appreciative and encouraging Kowalczyk motioned for them to keep on going.
“The Distance,” “Selling The Drama,” “Everlasting Love” and “Zion” rolled along, one after another. The band’s brand new guitarist held back a little, but nevertheless fit in with the ensemble on his first gig ever with Kowalczyk.
The dynamic ballad “Heaven” had the biggest audience participation up to that point, the endearing chorus of rising up from the crowd. Standout tunes from “Grace” to “I Alone” brought out the potent urgency of Kowalczyk’s voice, which was in top form. No doubt, it brought back memories for many in the crowd of only a few short years ago, when Ed and his Live bandmates enthralled a huge SPAC audience with those same rafter-rattling choruses.
Regardless of the current legal entanglements and bitter feelings between Kowalczyk and his Live-mates, he hasn’t been resting on his laurels, and last year he released his critically acclaimed solo debut, “Alive.” Touring in support of the album, it’s clear that he loves to perform live and bask in the audience’s adulation, but he’s also working hard to climb the ladder of success from smaller venues to once again break into the arena circuit.
Concluding the concert with a three-song encore, the band launched into “The Beauty Of Grey,” followed by “Lakini’s Juice.” After cries for “Lightning Crashes,” the catchy refrain of Kowalczyk’s signature song echoed through the park, and the slow, dramatic intensity of the anthem built to a frenzied climax in the heat of the day’s setting sun.
Unlike many former rock stars attempting to revamp their careers as solo artists, Kowalczyk obviously loves his fans, and he hung around after the show to meet and greet those waiting for him to sign autographs, pose for photographs or exchange congratulatory hand shakes and pats on the back.
Overall, a great show!
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “He not only played too much of his new stuff but promoted the record between songs, telling us which was his first single, his second single, etc. ‘Grace,’ if you didn’t know, was one of those singles. At that point, the two people next to me started yelling, ‘Play songs from your old band.’ He responded with his own tune ‘Zion,’ largely indistinguishable from the previous tunes.”