Remember Scotty Moore? Mitch Mitchell? Gary Tallent? Just as these musicians were propelled into the rock 'n' roll spotlight by their famous band leaders (Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen, respectively) and yet completely overshadowed by them, the members of the group Live are destined to be eclipsed by the enormous charisma of frontman Ed Kowalczyk.
During the Pennsylvania band's set at the Roxy on Monday, it was impossible to take your eyes off the wild-eyed singer as he delivered songs of anger and pain with an utterly unself-conscious, almost demonic intensity. His anguished yowl eerily recalled the legendary '60s psycho-singer Roky Erickson.
Though the material has yet to jell into greatness, a few numbers showed the germ of creative genius: the willowy, elegantly simple "Beauty of Gray" and the more manic "Pain Lies on the Riverside" among them, both from Live's debut album, "Mental Jewelry."
By comparison, the two opening acts seemed listless and ordinary despite some energizing moments. San Francisco's Wire Train continues to make pleasant, sometimes compelling alternative rock after a decade of static anonymity. The set's highlight came when the band briefly abandoned its milieu for an excursion into the mainstream, a smooth love song called "How Many More Times" that had the same sort of guilty appeal as Lenny Kravitz's "It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over."
The Spent Poets came off as an evolutionary relative of fellow Bay Area outfit Jellyfish, somewhere higher up on the food chain. The Poets are more likely to use big words and drop literary references in its lyrics than Jellyfish, but both depend on a sort of silly, self-effacing charm for their appeal.