"Birds of Pray" isn't so much a shock as it a sigh. It's Live running on auto-pilot, and coming from a band that had up to this point been progressive, it just seems like a regression (into something far paler than they ever appeared to be).
This is far and wide the least creative Live album, musically and lyrically. Hell, it's just downright boring. The songs here are all very similar in style and composition, with gimmicky hooks and lame, lame vocals. It's all musically adept, but the melodies are just generally uninteresting. There's absolutely nothing special about Birds of Pray. Nothing makes me want to put it back in my CD player. Whereas "Throwing Copper", "Secret Samadhi" and "Distance" had elaborate musical soundscapes within each individual song -- layered and complex -- "Birds of Pray" just feels shallow and empty. There's an energy to it that Live is known for, but there's nothing supporting that energy...
There are a few catchy numbers. "She", "Like I Do", "Sweet Release", "Rivertown" and "Out to Dry" are all good on the most fundamental of levels, but even they would be the weakest links in all of Live's previous releases. They're simply too formulaic and simple.
I initially saw Ed play "Heaven" acoustic on Late Night with Craig Kilborn when the album came out, and at that point I figured he was doing some solo work. To my surprise, Live was back at it again. To my surprise, they pumped out their weakest album. I don't know if they've just run out of steam or ideas, or are just getting old and concentrating on other things, but the only reason to pick up "Birds of Pray" is the fact that not even a year after the CD's been released you can find it brand new for a buck or two.