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Progressive Rock Concert Reviews

Agents of Mercy

Live in Milwaukee, WI, May 2011

Review by Josh Turner

By their own accord, they weren’t at their best. They were jetlagged and forlorn after a long flight and many hours of desperate searching for a needed piece of equipment at countless stores in the windy city. Despite this fact, Agents of Mercy were quite capable of flying circles around the audience’s eardrums. In reality, they’re awesome even on their worst day, which was supposedly this Monday night in Milwaukee.

Seeing that this stop inaugurated their tour, they chalked it up as a warm-up act for the rest of their trip. When you get down to it, the only crime that was committed was in the ludicrously low number of attendees, because it was a must-see show for fans in the area. Sure, Roine Stolt’s fingers didn’t dance as gingerly on the fretboard as one would be accustomed to hearing, but his sweet technique was a spice for the olfactory senses nonetheless. Similar observations could be made about Jonas Reingold’s playing. But seriously, they are superior players even when they are tired, sick, distracted, or out of their element. As for the distracted part, we’ll cover that in a minute.


Josh Turner
 
Josh Turner
   

From oblivion, this band formed and then formulated a couple phenomenal albums in the course of a few short years. Well, technically, the third is on its way to the concourse, but based on snacks doled out; it has some very sound items on its menu. Even so, the most refreshing material came from their maiden voyage. The opener and title track from that album, “The Fading Ghosts of Twilight,” was quick to establish its priority status. The rest from that manifest was impressive too. Beyond the liftoff, there’s zero drivel in their debut whether played live or direct from the studio, and everything to follow cut through the airwaves with aerodynamic precision. For most people, that song about apparitions’ red-eye departures would have been their first encounter with Agents of Mercy simply because it marks their point of origin in terms of discography and tracks. Keeping with the projected flight plan, it was presented early on here. Deserving executive treatment at every checkpoint, it was also the highlight of the concert.


Josh Turner
 
Josh Turner
   

Stowed away for later dispersion, demo material came out all right sans the inevitable spit and polish. Auspiciously, someone from the crowd knew about an article from their secret stash. At this juncture, Sylvan conjectured that there was a spy among them.

Coasting ahead of schedule, the encore followed several winks from Sylvan and included a “portion” of Transatlantic’s “Whirlwind.” For a quasi-cover, it was a convincing imitation. What makes it ersatz is the fact that Roine Stolt was the only rep from that venture.


Josh Turner
       

After another short piece, they acutely pulled the plug. A comment about the deafening applause may have been a tipoff to the abridgement. Abrupt outages aside, it did seem as if they fulfilled their duties and were ready to shove off onto to the next leg of their itinerary.

All in all, the plus was the minus in that this turned out to be a showcase for the lesser known members of the band. The reason why the negative sign gets flipped is that Lalle Larsson on keys and Mickael "Walle" Wahlgren on drums were both extraordinary. Filling in for tenured crew, Larsson and Wahlgren are also constituents of Karmkamic; another fabulous side-project piloted by Reingold.

While Sylvan’s voice wasn’t imbued with shooting stars or aurora borealis on this night, it’s apparent he possesses the right tonality for this style of music. He’d surely be on point for future dates. As for raspy patches in this particular connection, he was ready to jet once this nagging layover was over.

Addressing the turbulent disturbance that was alluded to in the introduction, one fan thought this was an audition to, “So you think you can dance?” She shook everything from her hands to her booty in the space between the stage and passengers’ seats. At one point, Sylvan gave a glance to his stewards, acknowledging that this individual’s enthusiastic gestures were an attention-grabber on the scale of someone springing from the aisles whilst the seatbelt light was lit.

Being totally honest, this was a great concert by a band of superior players who could have done better, but whose second-rate performance was first-class to any frequent flyer. They’re that good so no bad news here. Their originality and musicianship flow so effortlessly that they could have done this in their sleep. After crossing several time zones, it’s debatable if they were actually awake.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
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