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The Flower Kings

Live in Chicago, IL, August, 2008

Review by Josh Turner

I had twisted my ankle earlier in the week and was experiencing heat exhaustion upon my arrival. It was an unusually bad day for me. Yet, everything with fine with the universe once The Flower Kings took the stage. Tired, dehydrated, sore feet and twisted spine, I was a total wreck. Still, I didn’t care. The only therapy I needed was performing a couple yardsticks away.

Just like Unfold the Future, their set started with “The Truth Will Set You Free”. From the get go, they gelled. As any fan, fanatic or follower would tell you, they have two kinds of shows: One type that is song-oriented and another that is purely jams. For some, the latter is more or less sleep-apnea without the pajamas. Luckily for the attendees, this event was the former and the audience was compelled instead of weary. Rather they danced, they hollered, and at one point; Roine Stolt gave the microphone to an eager participant. Additionally, the people were the proud recipients of drum, bass and guitar solos worthy of the honor roll. These Swedes even played “America the Beautiful.”

Aspects of the band’s membership are continually changing. As always, Roine Stolt, Tomas Bodin and Jonas Reingold, were part of the common denominator. But new to the crew was the drummer, Erik Hammarström. Based on his even-handedness, they may have finally found a winner. It’s hard to find criticism, because he’s neither imperious nor meek. Second, Ola Heden did a good job spackling in the cracks. He filled in gaps by singing backing verses and caressing ivory keys. It’s as if he were the studio overdub come to life.

In regards to their material, the selections were all superb. We received several numbers from The Sum of No Evil. “Love is the Only Answer” flew highest of the flock. We also went back to the World of Adventure and to our surprise; experienced clearest skies from The Rainmaker. All that was missing was a stay at Paradox Hotel to round out the trip.

Their new drummer proves to be perfect for them but everyone continues to make it a point to play sharp. Even so, each one of these great guys has their quirks.

Roine Stolt ran the risk of tripping as shoelaces were completely absent from his shoes. Tomas Bodin, on the other hand, was smoldering without cigarettes (once a chain-smoker, he’s completely ditched the habit). Then there is the Scandinavian prince, Jonas Reingold, who is the greatest bassist of them all. Supposedly he was operating while queasy. He was sick all night all right. It was the best playing I’ve ever seen from him in ages and he even sang. As for Hasse Fröberg, he didn’t go quietly into the night either. His antics included copious amounts of kicks and screams and increasingly ear-splitting notes.

That aside, Stolt was the closest thing to an actor on the stage. He’s the Nordic region’s answer to Ed Norton. By his own admission, he says he is Dr. Nasty. Skill-wise, he’s incredible. Hierarchically, he is their leader. Maybe he has some villainous connection to Dr. Banner.

Back to the new drummer, Hammarström was modest but amazing on his kit. He clicked so well and had so much chemistry; it was hard to believe he’d only been with the band for five months. With this smart partnership, look for great success.

When assessing this professional exhibition as a whole, the gig was so good it was nearly inexplicable.

Stotlt stated that there is only one band with their name. Their uniqueness goes far beyond their moniker. In my opinion, they are a super-group of sorts and this night they paraded their goods around for the plebes to see. In the end, this nonchalant, low-maintenance crew delivered at this unassuming venue. I don't like saying, "it was the best concert ever...", but it was up there.

And speaking of wrap-ups, they finished with “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway,” which Stolt tells us was a requirement for their first ever stateside event. Many of us – including myself - are glad he humored those stubborn, Genesis-loving coordinators on that historic bygone day. As for the reverent encore from their recent past, it was impeccable and went off without a hitch. While it came after “Life in Motion” (a song that talks about the voyage home), this cover was more than apposite to perform before their exodus back.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 5 at
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