By Sheela Sarvananda
The lights are dimmed, there's a low rumbling in the crowd, and everyone is waiting, just waiting. In the intimate surrounds of TAB, in the heart of town, there's a palpable sense of excitement as all and sundry anticipate the main event: the solo performance of Ed Kowalcyzk, former lead singer of multi-platinum rock band Live.
The band has sold over 20 million albums worldwide, and is unsurpassed as one of the most successful and enduring alternative rock backs over the last few decades.
The singer and songwriting force majeure of the group has since left and chartered his own success as a solo singer. Despite talk of an acrimonious split with his band mates, he says where he is today was an anticipated segue from being the lead singer of the band.
"I had simply come to the end of a chapter of my life and felt like I needed a change — a new spark if you would. Playing with new musicians was just the right medicine to get me inspired again. From my perspective, it was not acrimonious at all, but rather the result of a natural progression and a need that arose for me as an artist. How it was perceived by other people is a question only they can answer."
Kowalcyzk was in town for a one-night performance at the entertainment space, and played to a sold-out crowd of fans, who remember him from his glory days as the leader of Live.
As he steps on stage, a dull roar starts and escalates to rising crescendos. There's no doubt, everyone knows they're in for a non-stop ride through the musical landscape of the singer's repertoire, with Kowalcyzk being the grandmaster, bar none. The clean-shaven singer does not let them down. His presence on stage cannot be denied, as he takes control of the room and leads the crowd on a rollercoaster of emotions, with his anthemic music. Favourites like "Lightning Crashes" and "I Alone" fill TAB, and the crowd goes wild.
In quieter moments away from the frenetic energy and his rock star status, he reveals a more thoughtful side. He says that who he is as a solo singer, is who he was meant to be. And his choice to go it alone doesn't unnerve him. In fact, it reinforces his essence as a songwriter and singer searching for a soulful connection with those who love his music.
"The first show I did as a solo artist was, very appropriately, a solo acoustic show. It was in the USA somewhere, and I remember being happier than I had been in many years. I was reconnecting with the audience of my music in a very deep and intimate way for myself and them. I haven't looked back!"
On whether his not unfettered shift from his identity as lead singer of Live has shaped him, due to the personal and professional attrition with the split, Kowalcyzk says he has rolled with the punches and is only better for the experience.
After all, his first solo album, Alive, should let on a little about just how empowered he felt:
"It was a word that I kept coming back to for the very simple reason that I felt alive again, after a rather long period of feeling a lack of excitement about music. I knew people would relate it to 'Live' as well, and that was okay with me. Alive is kind of a bridge out of the old and into the new for me. My latest music has a new depth and bit of angst to it that I would say is somewhat connected to the personal challenges I've had to face over the past few years."
Director of TAB, Adrian Mah, reveals bringing the singer in was an easy decision: "Every time we bring an act in, we feel like it sort of adds to the character of the venue.
The good thing about TAB is in terms of the size, we're not so big that only the most popular acts can go on, and we're not so small that it doesn't make sense to bring certain acts in. So the kind of experience that you get when you bring these kinds of acts in is also very different. With Ed, he's had a lot of success and he has a following here, so that's why we felt he was a good act to bring in. And also, he's just awesome!"
For Kowalcyzk, the Singapore leg of his tour is one he will remember. The crowds singing along with him, hands raised, fists punching the air in time with the beat — these are the reasons why he continues his solo act.
"The show was fantastic. I could tell the fans genuinely appreciated the 'I Alone' acoustic set. I did a small meet-and-greet after the show and was very impressed with how sweet and welcoming the fans were to me. I really can't wait to come back."
Don't let the rockstar façade fool you — Ed Kowalcyzk is a singer stripped down and ready to bare his soul to fans who go on this journey with him. A solo act only in name, and very much live in person.
Watch one of Kowalcyzk's video "Lightning Crashes" here: