At 12 years and six albums into Live's recording career, the bandmembers have fewer qualms about letting their spirituality and big themes rise to the surface, as the very title of Birds of Pray indicates. They even open the record with "Heaven," a plea to "get back your faith again," where leader Ed Kowalczyk claims "I don't need no one to tell me about heaven/I look at my daughter and I believe." Scott Stapp had similar sentiments about his son on Creed's "With Arms Wide Open," but Kowalczyk's song has grander ambitions, which echo throughout Birds of Pray. He's struggling through the post-9/11 world, believing in "The Sanctity of Dreams" and hoping to "Bring the People Together" as he questions "What Are We Fighting For?" but realizing that "Life Marches On," so he finds solace in his family, particularly his daughter, who is mentioned or alluded to often on these 13 songs. (Interestingly, his song titles state his themes much better than the lyrics, which are either too literal or bewilderingly obtuse.) These are all the concerns of a group whose members are in their thirties, and they appropriately have tweaked the music. It's still recognizably Live music -- big, big guitars, sweeping anthemic choruses, earnest ballads, mildly histrionic vocals, all tied together as post-U2 arena rock -- but it's a little more subdued and a little more serious and quite streamlined, subtly fitting Kowalczyk's themes. The biggest problem with the record is that the eye is on the big picture -- from how the songs fit together to how the overall sound fits a song -- to the extent that the individual moments aren't all that memorable, clearly lacking singles as forceful as those that fueled Throwing Copper and not quite as compelling as a whole as its predecessor, V. These, however, are all signs that Live is growing up and settling down, turning into a solid thirty-something rock band -- it won't gain much attention outside of its core audience, but it will satisfy them, largely because the band is growing with them.
Birds of Pray Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine