03/22 Community Concert Durango CORead More
03/24 Soiled Dove Underground Denver, CO
03/30 Yoshi's Oakland Oakland, CA
04/01 Belly Up Tavern Solana Beach, CA
04/02 Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas
04/04 Musical Instrument Phoenix, AZ
04/24 Bears Den Niagara Falls, NY
04/25 Swyer Theatre Albany, NY
04/26 Sellersville Theater Sellersville, PA
05/08 House of Blues Dallas, TX
05/09 House of Blues Houston, TX
05/11 City Winery Nashville, TN
05/12 Variety Playhouse Atlanta, GA
05/14 Ponte Vedra Concert Hall , FL
05/15 Capitol Theater Clearwater, FL
05/16 Plaza Live Orlando Orlando, FL
05/17 Culture Room Fort Lauderdale, FL
Joining Kowalczyk was multi-instrumentalist Zack Loy, who not only sang harmonies but used mandolin, resonator guitar and lap steel guitar to help make these well-worn songs sound as vibrant as ever. The two musicians took to the stage in front of a screen that showed different visuals for each song. Sometimes the images would be surreal and colorful; during “Iris” there was footage of eyes opening and closing along with swirling colors. For “Lightning Crashes” (the tune Kowalczyk called “the little song that really could” because the record label dismissed the song due to its 5 minute length) clips of the music video graced the screen. Many of the songs, however, featured film of a man utilizing different household objects to provide a rudimentary beat for Kowalczyk and Loy as they played. During “All Over You,” for example, the mystery percussionist took a painting of a sleeping baby and a cardboard box and tapped out a rhythm.
It must be excruciating to play the same songs you’ve been playing for two decades, so I can completely understand if Kowalczyk is ready to put this record to bed for the rest of his career. But I also applaud his subtle reworking of some of these tunes, be it the addition of different lyrics or a slight change of key in a chorus - perhaps a way to refresh the song and keep it interesting. All that said, the music was fantastic - familiar, of course, but not at all boring. Kowalczyk’s voice can still reach great heights and he is a pleasure to watch, a performer who just exudes warmth. During “Stage,” he hopped into the crowd and did a victory jog around the room, hi-fiving impassioned fans along the way. And when they weren’t yelling out the lyrics, cries of support and love were being lobbed at the singer (for his part, Kowalczyk is a handsome guy and had many women giggling with glee every time he took a swig of water or took off his button-up shirt).
“I like songs about the end of the world,” joked Kowalczyk as Loy pulled out his lap steel and poured twang all over “White, Discussion.” It was a really cool and unique take on a kind of murky, dour song. The lap steel made me swoon some more as they played the languid, yearning “Horse,” which is the final (secret!) song on Throwing Copper, and my very favorite.
Kowalczyk and Loy returned for the second set with a raw version of “Lakini’s Juice” and the tender ballad “Turn My Head,” both from 1997’s Secret Samadhi. Kowalczyk also offered two new solo tunes: “All That I Wanted” and “Seven” from his last record 2013’s The Flood and the Mercy. After saying a few words about the charity World Vision, an organization that provides clean water to children in poverty, Kowalczyk spoke of his own children, namely his first daughter who inspired him to write “Heaven,” the hit song from Live’s 2003 album Birds of Pray. “This is for the mothers and daughters!” Kowalczyk exclaimed before asking all the women in the crowd to make noise. When the ladies didn’t quite push those decibel levels to extremes, Kowalczyk quipped, “C’mon! I live with four of you; I know how loud you can be!”
Closing out the set was the solemn “Overcome,” a song that Kowalczyk said was “buried” in Live’s V record but emerged around the time of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and was sort of adopted by survivors as a healing anthem. It truly is a moving piece of music, one that had people swaying with the melody. Kowalczyk and Loy, awash in applause, soon departed the stage to the soft synths of “Purple Rain,” leaving behind a group of people still immersed in that heavenly sound.
Ed Kowalczyk at Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis (02 Mar 2015)