#113 Live – Birds Of Prey (2003)

Live formed in York, Pennsylvania when the boys in the band were all still in middle school. By the time they were 20 years old they were signed to a record contract and were recording their first record. At 23 they were in Cannon Falls, Minnesota writing and recording what we be the bands 2nd full length album Throwing Copper. That record would end up being a huge hit selling over 8 million units and propelling the band into the national spotlight. Live had been existing for 9 years in the shadow of their 1994 album Throwing Copper when Birds Of Prey was released in 2003. The 3 albums between these had sold successively less and less and to be honest, as much as I loved Throwing Copper, I don’t have any of them. Although when the band opened for the Counting Crows on that bands tour in 2000 I was excited about the pairing and was in the arena when the tour made a stop at the Target Center in Minneapolis. It still ranks up there with one of the favorite shows that I’ve attended.

While critics were not kind to Birds Of Prey, I like it.  Lead singer and principal songwriter Ed Kowalczyk was the heart and soul behind this band and although lyrically this record falls short of the level that he maintained through most of Copper, it’s still a very good record and musically stays the course. Personally I’m a big fan of Ed’s voice and the sound of this band. The song “Heaven” was the first single from the disc and was what propelled this record. Unlike on Throwing Copper religion and spirituality are not the driving force behind this records lyrical content, this song is one of the few exceptions. In reality “Heaven” speaks more to me about a parents love for their child and the child’s representation of heaven being right here on earth than any religious statement ( I don’t need no one to tell me bout Heaven…I look at my daughter & I believe). It would reach #33 on the US Mainstream Rock charts, the 17th and final time Live would crack the Top 40 on the charts. The other song to be released as a single off this album was “Run Away”, a slower tempo song about escapism. But the disc is deeper than just these 2 cuts. While sticking mainly to the anthem chorused rock formula songs like “She”, “The Sanctity Of Dreams”, “Rivertown” & “Life Marches On” are all solid album tracks and not just filler. It is one of those discs that you can put on and listen to from start to finish without having to skip half of the tracks. The other stand out track on the record is the closer. “What Are Fighting For” is an overtly political song, very reminiscent of “White:Discussion” which closes out Throwing Copper. It is an unapologetic critique of US involvement in the middle east accompanied with an anti-war stance. It contains some of Ed’s heaviest lyrics on the record (Battle flag in the bassinet, oil & blood on the bayonet…the crucifix ain’t no baseball bat, tell me what kind of God is that…ain’t nothing more Godless than a war, so tell me what are we fighting for) and he asks us to look inside of ourselves and think about how history may view our actions questioning why there isn’t more outrage (What will I tell my daughter? What will you tell your son?  Where were all the doves?  That we were nothing but a shadow, a faceless generation devoid of love? ). As a fan of the band I was hoping that they would be re-energized by the tour with Counting Crows and the success of “Heaven”. But it was not to be. Although they released one more album, Ed & the band went through an ugly split in 2009 with the band accusing Ed of underhanded dealings involving contracts and money. Ed has started a solo career and although the other 3 members are trying to continue with a new singer… Live as we know is most likely gone forever.

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