Collective Soul, Live, & Blues Traveler @ Capitol One Theatre at Westbury

Collective SoulWESTBURY, NY—Long Island’s Capital One Bank Theater at Westbury doesn’t have a bad seat in the house, and it’s certainly at the top of my list of venues to see anyone. On Wednesday, Aug. 13, it was Collective Soul, opened by Blues Traveler and closed by Live.

Though Blues Traveler seems to be a genuine group of gentlemen (later confirmed by Collective Soul during their set), and clearly a very tight band, their entire set felt like one big run- on sentence. I have never been a fan of jam bands, or understood their appeal; though most fans are stoned out of their mind when listening, so they just might hear something completely different than those of us who are stone-cold-sober. What I don’t understand is how John Popper can write a fantastic song like “Run-Around” that sticks out like a sore thumb, along with “Hook” amidst a set of songs that sound exactly like one another. If the ability is there, why isn’t it being used?

Collective Soul seems to get better every time I see them. They exploded with “Heavy” off of 1999’s Dosage, soon flowing into Disciplined Breakdown’s (1997) “Listen,” to a roar from the crowd. Audiences always seem to be captivated by the musicianship and humanity of the Stockbridge, Georgia ensemble —who play like a true band in every sense— even if they didn’t come to the show to see them in the first place. It’s why Collective Soul can always leave a show knowing they connected with new fans. “December,” one of their number one hits released in 1994 on their self-titled album—which went triple platinum—resided third in their set. It was almost surprising, though at the same time not, with all of the hits and solid material that Collective Soul can proudly take credit for.

“Good evening!” front man Ed Roland bellowed to the fervent crowd, preceding his famous southern-California- flavored line “We’re Collective Soul, man!”

Yes, they are, and though they may not still be on a major label, or have videos rotating continuously on music television, they are honorably one of the furthermost bands to arise. Their songs radiate whimsical and spiritual lyrics, with some of the best and most underrated guitar playing by Ed’s brother, rhythm guitarist Dean Roland, and lead guitarist Joel Kosche, who sang his song “I Don’t Need Anymore Friends” as the revolving circular stage spun faster, something drummer Ryan Hoyle was against when jokingly asked. Hoyle and bassist Will Turpin are a supreme rhythmic combination to back the rest, standing out on their own as well as contributing to the group as a whole. “The World I know” —currently being brought back into rotation by American Idol winner David Cook—also made it into their set, along with “Hollywood,” flawlessly and energetically colored with AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” and “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” after Ed Roland—who did his best Angus Young impersonation—asked “You wanna have some fun?!”

I saw Live once before this occasion and I wasn’t impressed one bit. I couldn’t fathom why they were allowed to follow Collective Soul because they come off as juvenile in comparison. On this occasion I had my mind set on giving them the benefit of the doubt, and taking the good with the bad— unfortunately the bad far outweighed any good I could find. It was an embarrassment for Live to have to follow Collective Soul once again, to a less than enthused crowd, which includes their cult- like following. If I’m going to watch anyone perform while swigging wine onstage in between songs and becoming increasingly more intoxicated, it’s class acts like Butch Walker, or —if an opportunity for a trip back in time presented itself —The Faces, not Live’s front man Ed Kowalczyk, who drank both red and white wine in between every song, quickly turning into a malevolent drunk. He exudes a smug sense of self-love—especially during applause—and lacks class, wit, and intelligence.

Going back to my review last year from The Nokia Theatre—“Ed Kowalczyk made a crack about inhaling New York City’s “foul smell” to give his voice that “extra somethin’.” I believe he thought himself to be witty, though the crowd went silent; probably trying to convince themselves that throwing something at him would not be worth it in the end.” —Kowalyczyk doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut.

First he compared being onstage in front of everyone to that dream where you go to class and show up naked, or in your underwear. To my knowledge, that has always been considered an embarrassing nightmare that no one wants to have. So how does that compare to playing onstage in front of over two thousand people? I realized how inebriated he was when the band went into “I Alone” but Kowalyczyk wearily announced “Let’s start that one over,” and began to slightly slur his words. Then he started to say that he knew we paid good money to be there, but he wanted to be respected, and then started throwing a drunken tantrum and screaming at the “drunk asshole who yelled ‘Freebird!’” Kowalyczyk told the man that he didn’t cancel like “some punk” and to “put it in his pipe and smoke it,” completely disrespecting him, to no applause or encouragement.

Well, as they say, you accuse others of what you yourself are most guilty of. When a drunken fan hopped onstage to grab a photo during Collective Soul’s set, they ignored him and let security do their job. Live could learn more than just good musicianship from Collective Soul.

They soon played one of their number one hits, “Lightning Crashes”—continuing to remind me of a bad Christian Rock band—for Kowalczyk’s two sons. Funny he was thinking of his children after his tirade, where he didn’t stop to consider that there were young children in the audience whose parents probably weren’t too happy with his antics. At that point, no one else in the band looked to be having fun, and everyone had yet to play a solo. The only thing I can compliment them on is their collective singing ability. Once the song terminated, as Kowalczyk’s eyes become more beady and bulged, I had to get up and leave, because this set might as well have been a train wreck in slow motion.