Bush and Live Rock out at the Roxy: Kicking off the ALTimit Tour The sounds of the 90s still relevant in our filtered society
HOLLYWOOD, CA- The ALTimate Tour featuring Bush, Live, and Our Lady Peace will be touring around the nation this summer and if that isn’t a sign the 90s are back. I don’t know what else is. The nostalgia of the 90s is everywhere you look from movie reboots, restaurant pop ups like Saved by the Max, to Doc Martins and scrunchies being rocked in everyday fashion. Everything comes back full circle. The 90s revitalization is also leading to some of the best bands from the 1990s coming together to tour.
The 90s was a particular interesting time of trials, tribulations, and triumphs. The beginning of the 1990 in the United States was marked with a period of financial difficulty. The United States was in a recession from 1990 to 1991 and although it technically lasted less than a year, the recovery from the recession would be felt for a few years. In the rainy city of Seattle, young adults were feeling the rise of unemployment, a slow growing economy, and the superficial and greed of mainstream society, all these elements would lead to a chemical reaction that would explode with heavy gritty guitar riffs, pounding drums, and songs full of cynicism and frustration of the world around them.
But from this time evolved a new sound of music which: grunge. The early grunge bands from Seattle, such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam, created unfiltered music that was raw, unpolished, and grimy. The guitar riffs and pounding drums would tear open your heart as powerfully, gravelly voices would take over your soul. The music was dark and angry, it was a metaphoric middle finger to mainstream culture. The culture that lived in a fantasy devoid of the realty of what the nation was facing joblessness, homelessness, and a lack of acceptance.
As the years went by and the economy slowly started to improve, technology was beginning to boom the later grunge bands’ anger and frustration softened a bit. Some categorized the music of the mid 90s as post grunge, others have called it alternative. It was a music that was in a category of its own. While Grunge turned its back on mainstream society and blamed it for the problems in the world, the later music wanted to be part of society but venting out a frustrating of being needed to be accepted without conforming. It was this particular sub-genre of music that truly spoke to me.
The bands Bush and Live were two band that truly influenced my adolescence. I was in high school when Bush’s Sixteen Stone and Live’s Throwing Cooper came out. I was part of a sub generation that has been called many things from the Xennials to the “Jordan Catalano generation”, a generation not as cynical as Generation X, but not as hopefully and idealistic as the future Millennials. I was dorky nerdy girl without many friends. I had one friend to be exact. I felt isolated from the cool kids in high school. I didn’t want to turn my back on high school culture and give it a middle finger for shoving me to the side. I too wanted to go to dances, the games, excel in school, be active in school clubs. I wanted to be a part of that world, only on my terms and without conforming.
Listening to Live’s music, I was drawn into the words. It expressed pain, vulnerability, and hope. Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer, had a depth to his voice that could be mellow in one instance to flat out grit your teeth growling the next. The range of emotions in his tone would burn into my mind. I would spend hours listening to the album Throwing Cooper. It awoke something deep in me.
Bush’s Sixteen Stone had the same power, except to a greater degree. Gavin Rossdale’s intensity could be felt in every song. Nigel Pulsford, on guitar would play some insane explosive guitar cords. The intro to Machine Head with the fast guitar cords and similarly intense drums was one of my favorites. I would be head banging all the cares away.
Twenty five years later these bands are still impacting the now adults that spent their youth listening to their music on their Sony Discmans. When I found out that Bush and Live were touring together, I might have shrieked like the 16 year old nerd I used to be. I was beyond thrilled to attend a kick off tour performance earlier in March. Honestly, it was everything I dreamed of and more.
The kick off preview of the ALTimate tour occurred on a windy Tuesday night at the Roxy where Live played their first LA concert back in 1992, before the release of Throwing Cooper. The anticipation for this concert was big. As I waited for Live to take the stage, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations of fellow fans around me. The music changed them the minute they heard their music when they were teenagers and forever seems to have stayed engrained in their mind. There is something so timeless of Live’s music. It embodies themes of love, sorrow, death, acceptance … All topics that hit everyone at one stage of their life.
Live came on stage with the first number “All over You”. The entire room was singing the chorus. It was amazing to be in a packed standing-room venue while it filled with a thundering sounds of song. Ed Kowalczyk was so in tune with the audience and feeding off their energy. Guitarist Chad Taylor rocked hard the solo guitar, it was electrifying. Chad Gracey’s drumming was so intense I couldn’t tell if it was my heart pounding, the drums, or both, though clearly it was both. It was a great first number, followed by many other great songs. I was swept away by “Dolphin’s Cry”, the drumming in “I Alone” was perfection the slow tempo that builds to a furious frenzy was beyond amazing to witness in person.
One particularly memorable highlight of the Live performance besides the amazing songs was a special appearance by a 90s icon. As the mellow edgy guitar began to play “Lakini’s Juice” and bassist Patrick Dahlgheimer is strumming, a very tall man holding a cigar comes on stage and starts to dance along guitarist, Chad Taylor. I was perplexed. Wait, is that? OMG that’s Dennis Rodman. As the song continues to play Dennis, Chad, and Ed are singing and “dancing in the shadows”. Apparently, Dennis and fellow Live band mates are good friends. Who knew!
Live’s last song was their number 1 hit that was on the chart “Lighting Crashes”, Ed was on fire singing the song. For the chorus, Ed pointed the mic to the audience. The room was filled with the voices of so many people of all races, religions, handicapped, athletic. It’s a song that has touched so many from all walks of life. I couldn’t help noticing that no matter what our backgrounds are, music is a powerful unifier. It was glorious to feel the energy of the crowd. I haven’t felt that kind of energy from a crowd in the longest time. It even had me tearing up a little how life can be sometimes isolating, we live in world of social media where things aren’t always what they seem and trying to live an illusion can be exhausting. The song was a cathartic. I finally felt free of all the drama and pressure we put ourselves through to have people like us. I honestly didn’t think the night could get any better, but there was one more act left.
Bush exploded on the stage with a kick ass performance of “Machine Head.” Gavin Rosedale showed up in a casual look of jeans and a side open red t shirt. Chris Traynor rocked it out with some amazing riffs on the guitar. Although not the original guitarist of the band, Chris is perfect. The sentiment of ‘walking from my machine’ is actually so relevant today. We are so glued to the computers and phones, constantly on social media, filtering our lives to make it seem cooler and better than it it.
Next song played was “The Chemicals Between Us” from their album Science of Thing (1999), and Chris was on fire with this performance. It was amazing just to him strum those strings. Following that performance was “Everything Zen” which was always one of my favorites, the lyrics of the song were a stream of conscious of emotions, a splatter of words that weren’t always cohesive, but had so much angst. Life is not perfect- it is not Zen- even though we often pretend it is.
A few more songs followed including “This is War” which Gavin mentioned is relevant in the time we live in. The lyrics of being accepted who we are, of how we “walk through the fields of history” all are relevant we really need to step into each other’s shoes, spot pointing the finger “no more war”. A powerful sentiment that is beyond relevant all over the world, not just in the United States.
Later Gavin took the stage alone, with just a guitar to perform Glycerin. The words poured out like a smooth whiskey. He even topped playing his guitar to go completely a cappella. I was mesmerized. I don’t think he is given enough credit for how truly talented he is. To perform Glycerin without any accompaniment and to be so spot on in tune is a true feat for any singer. It sent chills through my body, it was perfection.
The last performance of “Little Things” and “Come Down”, had the audience singing at the top of their lungs and had me head banging to them. It was like I was 25 years younger. Come down hit me like a ton of brick. The words- ““It’s take me all this time to find out what I need” – made me realize how in these 25 years, all the sentiments of being real and true have slowly faded and have been covered by Instagram filters and Facebook stories. It really had me making a mental note of my life and how the idea of image rather than true realty has taken over. The teenage me never conformed, the adult me has. It was an eye opening moment.
Gavin thanked the audience for coming to the performance and reminded everyone of the summer tour. As they walked off stage, the house lights came on and the “Sound of Winter” from the Sea of Memories played on the speakers. Some stayed behind dancing away to the song, as I walked towards the exit, stepping over crushed beer cans tossed on the floor.
The lyrics had me really analyze the whole concert and the importance of the revitalization of the alternative music from the 1990s. The song made me look inside myself trying to find equilibrium, in the chaotic world we live in. “We have got to hang on to yourself” … in essence we are to blame for what is going on, we have let social media and the pressure to beyond perfect get to us. Our anxiety is increasing to fulfill a facade we created. In the end we can’t compromise, but we can “walk through the fire together”.
The music of my generation was all about not conforming, but it was also about acceptance. I feel we have lost a bit of that. We want to be accepted but are we making an effort to listen to others who don’t match our cookie cutter ideals of religion, politics, and values? We can’t turn our back on society for not listening when we aren’t listening to others. It goes both ways. We need balance and we need to be real with ourselves and with others. Only then can real change happen.
I highly recommend this concert and this upcoming tour. If you spent your adolescence listening to grunge and alternative music you will not want to miss it. To those you didn’t grow up in that era, I still recommend you take time to check out Bush, Live, and Our Lady Peace. You will experience a performance of pure raw emotion and energy that will blow your mind.
For more information on concert tours check out Live Nation.