Live were originally labelled the poor man's U2, thanks to their anthemic choruses and earnest spirituality. Unlike the Irish superstars, however, the Pennsylvania quartet have found what they're looking for on Birds of Pray
, their sixth album. Singer and principal songwriter Ed Kowalczyk proclaims in "Heaven" that not only has he got his faith back, he's seen God in his infant daughter and a sunset. Gooey sentiments, perhaps, but Kowalczyk sings them with a sweet sincerity that delivers a solid psychic punch.
The band seemed to lose their way around the turn of the century, embroidering their trademark guitar-heavy sound with an abundance of frivolous loops, gadgetry and gratuitous fretwork. This time, thankfully, they've gone back to basics, throwing out the trashy keyboards and again pounding out their rhythmically charged rock. Kowalczyk is also writing less ponderous lyrics. The singer has found his salvation in love, which has softened his stern demeanour and given his stream-of-consciousness songs a playful spin not heard before on a Live album. --Jaan Uhelszki