The Flower Kings - Live In Europe 2023

The Flower Kings – Live In Europe 2023

At the end of 2023, The Flower Kings (TFK) toured Europe and the UK. In the Netherlands, at the Pul in Uden (October 27) and the Boerderij in Zoetermeer (October 28), we had the pleasure of catching the Swedish progrock group. Apparently, these performances were so good that the recordings could be released as a new album, Live in Europe 2023. Although it’s not entirely clear from which particular show the recordings originate, however in the press information, head honcho Roine Stolt makes a somewhat cryptic remark that a coincidental recording from the venue’s front of house equipment sounded so good that a new live album might actually become a fact. A blessing in disguise, because this is without a doubt one of the best sounding live recordings of the Swedish quintet that I have ever heard.

And there is a theme, it revolves around three things: emotion, melody and atmosphere. TFK has never been a band that had to rely on muscular display anyway – mind you, these musicians can still rock from time to time. However the choices that Stolt & Co made for the material that would eventually end up on a silver disc, qualifies on all three aforementioned criteria, without exception. Rarely have I heard so much superb, melodic music sequentially in a live performance. It starts with a special version of Garden of Dreams, shortened to a medley of about thirteen minutes. All those beautiful melodies in a row, goose bumps. Big Puzzle is in line with the opener in terms of atmosphere, here too a lot of lingering, emotional music. Especially the melodic guitar work of Stolt comes into its own, but keyboardist Lalle Larson also shows what he has to offer. Not directly by lightning-fast licks but mainly by touching the white and black keys in an understated and extremely tasteful way. In particular, an intimate, atmospheric feel is created by frequent use of the piano. His solo halfway through Stardust We Are is the most prominent proof of this, deservedly rewarded by the audience with a standing ovation.

Both songs The Dream and A Day for Peace from latest studio album Look At You Now fit seamlessly with the older work in terms of atmosphere, and The Dream has been extended to almost double its playing time to highlight this. But it is the last two songs, What if God is Alone? from Paradox Hotel and Stardust We Are, condensed to a little over half an hour, that are the icing on the cake. Here the King’s show that they rightly belong at the top of the genre, especially in a live setting. One beautiful melody after another emerges from the band’s instruments, to which I also include the divine voice of singer Hasse Fröberg. In both songs he pulls out all the stops, and we mainly have to thank him for the iconic climax in Stardust We Are. But I don’t want to do a disservice to the rest of the musicians: from Mirko de Maio’s precise drumming, to brother Michael Stolt’s subtle bass sound, Lalle Larson’s almost classical keyboard work and Roine Stolt’s unparalleled guitar playing – which is all as crystal clear and sparkling as it is on the studio record.

Even the question: ‘why not promote the entire performance to a double album?’ doesn’t really come to mind. OK, maybe I’m missing personal favourite Paradox Hotel just a little, but it’s fine. It probably would have detracted from that cherished, special intimate ambience that the album exudes. At just over seventy-five minutes of Flower Kings music, it is just enough and all that thanks to the digital recordings during a Dutch show 😉

01. Garden Of Dreams Medley (12:44)
02. Big Puzzle (20:40)
03. The Dream (7:47)
04. Day For Peace (3:32)
05. What If God Is Alone? (7:10)
06. Stardust We Are (28:52)

Total Time – 75:21

Roine Stolt – Guitars, Vocals
Hasse Fröberg – Guitars, Vocals, Percussion
Lalle Larsson – Keyboards
Michael Stolt – Bass, Moogbass, Vocals
Mirko DeMaio – Drums, Percussion

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 17th May 2024

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