Live (IPA pronunciation: , rhymes with "five") is an American alternative rock band from York, Pennsylvania, USA, comprised of Ed Kowalczyk (lead vocals & guitar), Chad Taylor (lead guitar), Patrick Dahlheimer (bass) and Chad Gracey (drums). Since approximately 1999, Live has toured with Ed's younger brother, Adam Kowalczyk as a rhythm guitarist and, previously, British keyboardist Michael "Railo" Railton.
Characterized by an earnest approach to anthemic rock and a spiritual zen reminiscent of Joshua Tree-era U2, Live climbed from modest modern rock success to the mainstream spotlight worldwide on the strength of their 1994 breakthrough album, the 8 million-selling Throwing Copper.
Kowalczyk, Taylor, Dahlheimer, and Gracey first came together for a middle-school talent show in the Pennsylvania blue-collar town of York. The group remained together throughout high school, going through a handful of band names and new-wave covers before settling on the moniker Public Affection and recording a self-released cassette of originals, The Death of a Dictionary, in 1989. Frequent trips into New York to play at CBGB helped net the band a deal with Radioactive Records in 1991. With the new name Live, the band entered the studio with former Talking Heads keyboardist Jerry Harrison that year and began recording the EP Four Songs. The single "Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)" went to #9 on the Modern Rock chart, and paved the way for the band's Harrison-produced full-length debut, 1991's Mental Jewelry (#73). The album lyrics, penned by Kowalczyk, were heavily inspired by Indian guru Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Fueled by light touring (including billing at Woodstock '94 and Peter Gabriel's WOMAD tour) and a string of hit singles ("I Alone", "All Over You" and the #1 Modern Rock hits "Selling the Drama" and "Lightning Crashes"), Live's next album, Throwing Copper, gave Live the breakthrough it desired. The steady success of the singles propelled the album to #1 on the Billboard 200 on May 6, 1995, more than a year after the album was released. To date, it is their best-selling album and often most highly regarded album by fans and critics. The band was even invited to appear on Saturday Night Live where they performed their hits "I Alone" and "Selling the Drama."
The momentum continued long enough to help 1997's Secret Samadhi (co-produced by the band and Jay Healey) debut at #1. Deriving its name from a state of Hindu meditation, the album spawned four Modern Rock hit singles, but failed to match its predecessor's success, with sales topping off at 2 million. The band performed "Lakini's Juice" and "Heropsychodreamer" from this album on NBC's Saturday Night Live.
Harrison came back on board as co-producer for 1999's The Distance to Here, which debuted at #4 and featured the minor U.S. hit single "The Dolphin's Cry."
On September 18, 2001, the more experimental V (originally scheduled to be titled "Ecstatic Fanatic") was issued to mixed reviews, preceded by "Simple Creed" as the first single. However, with the events of 9/11—which occurred a week before V's release—the melancholic "Overcome" began receiving significant airplay, superseding "Simple Creed" and becoming V's selling point. Unfortunately, Live's commercial stock—compounded by their petering radio airplay—had fallen further since The Distance to Here, with V merely reaching #22 at home, failing to reach gold status. That same year, Live contributed a live performance version of their song "I Alone" to the charity album Live in the X Lounge IV.
Birds of Pray appeared in May 2003, bolstered by the unexpected success of "Heaven", Live's first U.S. Hot 100-placing since "The Dolphin's Cry." Reaching #28, Birds of Pray ultimately outsold V, although it too received mixed reviews and failed to reach gold status.
In November 2004, Live released Awake: The Best of Live, a career-spanning compilation that included "We Deal in Dreams", a previously unreleased song from the Throwing Copper sessions, and a cover of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line", as well as Birds of Pray's "Run Away", re-imagined with Shelby Lynne on co-lead vocals.
In 2005, Live signed with Sony BMG Music Entertainment's Epic label, and released a new album entitled Songs from Black Mountain in June 2006, preceded by "The River" as lead single. Thus far, while the album has achieved international success, it has proven Live's lowest-seller yet domestically, only reaching #52 in the U.S. before quickly disappearing from the charts.
While Live remains only moderately popular in terms of record sales in the United States, much of their current sales come from places in Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Ed Kowalczyk has said that "Holland is the center of the Live universe."
The group made news in January 2006 as three band members (Chad Taylor, Patrick Dahlheimer and touring rhythm guitar Adam Kowalczyk) and two members of the band's road crew were on a United Airlines flight when smoke filled the cabin, requiring the pilot to make an emergency landing.
On Season 5 of American Idol, finalist Chris Daughtry was accused of performing Live's rendition of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" and calling it his own. This angered some Live fans, but one week later Daughtry acknowledged it was not his own rendition, even saying Live was one of his favorite bands. In May 2006, Live appeared on The Howard Stern Show and addressed this issue.
On May 24, 2006, the band and Chris Daughtry performed "Mystery" on the season finale of American Idol, and on June 7, a new version of "Mystery" was released on the Friends of Live website featuring Chris Daughtry on guest vocals.