Live / Photos by Clayton Taylor Photography
What’s the first album you ever purchased with your own money?
I think the answer probably says a lot about you and where you were at the time. It wouldn’t be what your parents listened to, because this would have been your rebellion. It’s unlikely to be something a sibling hooked you on, either – you would have access to those songs.
Next at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion
Who: Smashing Pumpkins / Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 23
Where: Arkansas Music Pavilion, Rogers
Cost: $35, plus fees
Tickets: 479-443-5600 or visit arkansasmusicpavilion.com for information.
It would have to be new, and it would have to be yours. You likely discovered it through a friend or a favorite DJ. I know for me it was big purchase – I was too young to have a job at the time, so any money I had was spent with the utmost caution and only on things I really wanted. I suspect your first album story has some similar plotlines, and I further suspect I could guess your age within a few years if you revealed your choice.
The first album I ever bought with my own money was “Sixteen Stone” by British rock band Bush. I wore it out and bought a new copy. I still have that second compact disc; the jewel case is cracked, and the CD might not even play because of all its scratches. Sometime along the way I even bought a shirt with the “Sixteen Stone” album cover on it and wore it frequently through middle school. When I bought that album, I was 12 or 13 and Bush might have been the biggest band in the world. They were the British Nirvana, and the answer to all our rock ‘n’ roll dreams. I wanted to be Bush lead singer Gavin Rossdale, and not just because he was married to Gwen Stefani.
The band Live would have been on my periphery at that time as well. The year that Bush released “Sixteen Stone,” Live released the album “Throwing Copper.” That album contained similar alternative rock radio firepower and had similar sales figures, too – Live sold about eight million copies of “Throwing Copper” back when such album sales numbers were possible in the pre-streaming era.
Bush / Photos by Clayton Taylor Photography
We’re now 25 years past the debut of those albums. Gavin and Gwen are no more. Live lead singer Ed Kowalczyk didn’t rejoin his group in 2012 after they returned from a lengthy hiatus. The rest of the band members sued him for talking about Live during his solo shows. He rejoined in 2016 like nothing happened. (Fun fact: When Live last appeared at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion in 2013, it was during the brief period of time when the band was fronted by replacement singer Chris Shinn). I’m about 50 pounds heavier than I was in 1994, although luckily a few inches taller, too. I’ve changed careers and lost a lot of hair along the way. One thing that hasn’t changed is Rossdale’s hair, by the way. He’s had the same haircut for 30 years.
It makes Bush and Live (and opener Our Lady Peace) a great fit for a joint tour. They would have been battling each other for chart position in their heyday. And their pairing makes them a great fit for folks of my age. This was evident during Wednesday night’s set at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. “The ALTimate Tour,” as they’ve billed it, drew a large but not quite sellout crowd of non-millennial-aged fans to the venue in Rogers. During one of his band’s biggest songs, “Little Things,” Rossdale ran deep into the crowd, getting all the way to the top of the lawn before coming back to the stage. During his return trip down the aisle, we high-fived. Eighth grade me would have gone into shock at such a thing. Thirty-seven-year-old me nearly did.
Nostalgia is such a funny filter to view something through, however. I want to believe that Bush and Live are performing as well as they were 20+ years ago. I want to believe that the respective lead singers, Rossdale and Kowalczyk, are ageless wonders. Both men wore shirts that strategically showed off large sections of their torsos. Both appear fit, and they used their nearly identical amount of time onstage running around and jumping enthusiastically. Rossdale’s voice sounded much as it ever did – vaguely British and vaguely gravelly. Kowalczyk still bellows, too. The sound mix didn’t help him. His microphone was incredibly loud, a condition most notable during the two songs Kowalczyk did solo while he played acoustic guitar. It was nearly too much. Sometimes, I thought Rossdale was too soft, or too focused on his guitar work. He’s better with a guitar than I anticipated, and he frequently approached an amplifier behind him to elicit feedback. Live, in a similar fashion, were far more musically muscular than I knew and/or remembered.
Live / Photos by Clayton Taylor Photography
But, let’s face it: Neither band is the commercial juggernaut they once were. “The ALTimate Tour” was designed with nostalgia in mind and as a 25-year anniversary party for each band’s big album. Bush played six songs from “Sixteen Stone,” or half the album. Live played six from “Throwing Copper” and used a few covers to help fill out the setlist. Bush is still making new music, at least, and they played their new song “Bullet Holes” from the “John Wick: Chapter 3” soundtrack on Wednesday night. Live didn’t try anything newer than 2003.
I left the concert Wednesday a strange mix of emotions. I was happy to hear songs that meant so much to me. I’m conflicted knowing that those songs are now old enough to rent a car. It was a pleasant evening with bands who still have some musical firepower remaining. It was also a reminder that I have degree-holding, high-functioning coworkers born after the release of the two albums that were Wednesday’s focus. And that the best days for two of the biggest rock bands of my youth have almost certainly come and gone.
Always go see your favorite music from your first musical days when you have a chance. I just hope you aren’t dragging at work the day afterwards. Time always wins, on some days more than others.
P.S. I washed my hand after the concert. I’m not that dedicated of a fan.