The Flower Kings revisited

Cultuurpodium De Boerderij, The Netherlands, Friday Dec 7th, 2018

Text: Robin Boer

Pics: Elena Savitskaya


It has been four years since Roine Stolt and his The Flower Kings payed our little country a visit during the tour of the succesfull, well-received album ‘Desolation Rose’. But at a certain point keyboard player Tomas Bodin and bandleader/guitarist/singer/composer Roine Stolt somehow lost contact with each other and somehow, it looked like The Flower Kings ceased to exist any longer.

In between, Roine formed a band called Kaipa da Capo, bringing back the more folky oriented prog rock from the original Kaipa band in the late 70s. He also released a collaboration album with Jon Anderson from YES, and this year, a double studio album of his new band called The Sea Within, with his partner in crime on bass, Jonas Reingold, Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), Tom Brislin (YES, Camel) and drummer Marco Minnemann.

Fortunately, Roine decided to bring back The Flower King again, by releasing an album full of musical ideas that never saw it’s way to an album, even since the early days of The Flower Kings in the mid 90’s until recently. He must have thought some unfinished business needed to be fulfilled, and so he did. Under the name ‘Roine Stolt’s The Flower King’, the album 'Manifesto of an Alchemist’ has been released last week and features many guest musicians, rather than being a traditional band with definitive personnel.



Friends

To celebrate almost 25 years of Flower Kings Music, a double-tour with the American band Spock’s Beard was arranged, so the latter is able to promote its new double album ‘Noise Floor’ properly. Drummer Felix Lehrmann has been replaced by the Italian Mirko Demaio and Tomas Bodin by the American keyboardist Zach Kamins. Both not quite known in the prog rock community, we were very curious to find out about their competences.

Let’s get straight first that this is not The Flower Kings, officially. The tour is billed under the name ‘Roine Stolt & Friends’ play ‘The Flower Kings’. It’s a celebration of the music of The Flower Kings, focused on big pieces (called ‘epics’ by prog enthousiasts) between the period of 1995 and 2006. We can assume the original band is over. However, with three long-time musicians on board, and not the least, how important is a name? It turned out the first half of the evening certainly was the best half.

The band started off with ‘Last Minute on Earth’ from ‘The Rainmaker’ (2001) which is a good showcase of many elements within The Flower Kings’ music: hardrock, psychedelica, symphonic elements, folky bits, and a lot of crazy stuff. The band didn’t need to search for a good sound that long; from the first second everything sounded very accurate and on point. Stolt’s voice sounded a bit rough and unsure, but after a few minutes we found out our small concern was invalid; just as his fabulous guitar playing, his voice still has it, and the same goes for Hasse Fröberg, the long haired rocker in the band, with his left-hand Les Paul guitar and his ultra high voice; definately a core element and trademark within the overall sound and characteristics of The Flower Kings. A perfect 'showcase' for his vocals is the wonderful song 'What If God Is Alone' (Paradox Hotel, 2006), which was the second song of tonight's set.

Epics

This set is a true epic fest for the true prog nerds. The half-an-hour ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’ (from the classic double album ‘Unfold The Future’, 2003) sounded like the band played it almost every night since the studio recording. It’s no surprise in this music that every musician sometimes grabs a wrong chord or note within it’s ongoing complexity, layers and details. Not to mention the speed in which it all happens here and there. These musicians are masters of their game. Halfway, Reingold gives away a short bass-solo in which we hear what a true bass master he is, but those who pay attention to everything he does during the band performance, are experiencing a breathtaking treat of grooves, melodic jokes, manual effects (the man plays effortlessly with both pick and fingers) and accuracy. Next time, we hope he brings his fretless bass with him, next to his Rickenbacker that he played throughout the whole set, since he is a true fretless master as well, and it adds some extra depth and colour to the music and performance anyhow.

The new musicians in this collective are more than worthy of attention. People who are familiar with this music, know how unique the keyboard work by Tomas Bodin is. Fortunately, Zach Kamins proofs to be capable of bringing a comparable flavor, colour and spirit to the music as Bodin used to give. Of course, every musician has it’s own unique fingerprint and this is no exception. Then again, Kamins efforts should be highly praised. Drummer Demaio brings what the music of The Flower Kings needs; solid but powerful rhythms. He has that typical prog rock style with fast fills and serves decently. From an audience point of view, the volume of the drumkit could have been a bit louder, but on the other hand it's not a punishment to listen to a concert where the drums are not too dominant, especially after the experience of the 'Banks of Eden' and 'Desolation Rose' tours, with Lehrmann being too much of a loudness powerhouse in our personal opinion.

The set concludes with 'There Is More To This World' (Retropolis, 1996) and the complete, almost half-an-hour version of 'Stardust We Are' (1997). The Flower King is back, and hopefully not leaving anytime soon.


[PJ_©RB]


Setlist:

Last Minute On Earth

What If God Is Alone

The Truth Will Set You Free

There Is More To This World

Stardust We Are


Personell:

Roine Stolt – guitar, vocals

Hasse Fröberg – guitar, vocals

Jonas Reingold – bass, backing vocals

Zach Kamins – keyboards

Mirko Damaio - drums