The Flower Kings – Live in Europe 2023 (Album Review)

Review of the new live album from The Flower Kings – Live in Europe 2023

by Bob Keeley

The operative word for the new live album from The Flower Kings is emotion. Roine Stolt, guitarist and leader of the band since he brought together a group of musicians to record a solo album called The Flower King in 1994, is no shredder. Similarly, recently added keyboard player, LalIa Larsson does not set the stage on fire with lightning fast runs up and down the keys. But if you want music that is played with intensity and feeling and that is intricately composed and played, then you should check out Live in Europe 2023. This fantastic album serves as both a great introduction to their music and a wonderful addition to their catalog for longtime fans.

This recording captures a healthy 81 minutes of one show from the Netherlands in October 2023 and, even though there are only 6 tracks, the setlist runs the gamut from their first album to their latest. They open with a medley from “Garden of Dreams” the epic which took up most of disc one of the 1999 double album, Flower Power. It is clear right from the start that these musicians are more about playing delicately and emotively rather than seeing how many notes they can play per second. One of the hallmarks of Flower Kings’ music over the years is the use of big instrumental themes and the “Garden of Dreams Medley” has quite a few of them. They cut the piece down to about 13-minutes, and the track builds slowly and beautifully. It is a great way to start the album.

The next track, “Big Puzzle,” is a perfect example of the emotional impact of this band. is. The 13-minute studio version, the final track from their first album, Back in the World of Adventures, is expanded to nearly 21 minutes live and it is a joy to behold. It opens with an unaccompanied piano solo that is beautiful in both its simplicity and in how it slowly builds. As in any epic, the song ebbs and flows from one musical theme to another while Roie Stolt and Hasse Fröberg trade vocal duties. Both Stolt and Larsson have instrumental solos that wring every ounce of emotion out of this song. This is amazing playing from both the soloists and the band, including bassist Michael Stolt and drummer Mirko DeMaio.

All of the tracks on this release highlight some of the lyrical themes that Roine Stolt has played with over the years: who we are, what our place in the universe is, how we should get along with each other, and how we relate to the big philosophical questions people have been grappling with for centuries. Stolt has never shied away from big themes, either musically or lyrically, and “The Dream,” and “Day for Peace” are two good examples of that. Both songs are from their latest album, Look at You Now. The live versions are excellent renditions of these songs with “The Dream” extended to about double the length of the studio version.

They close out the album with two songs from their back catalog, “What if God is Alone” and the 30-minute “Stardust We Are.” Both are performed in a way that add urgency to the studio versions.

If you know the Flower Kings catalog, you know that melodic interludes abound in their music. These moments are extended and enhanced in Live in Europe 2023. Making a set list when you have a catalog that stretches over 30 years in no easy task, especially when many of your songs are lengthy, and the Flower Kings makes some interesting choices with what to play on this tour and what to include on the album. None of these songs are up-tempo head-bangers. That’s not really the Flower Kings’ thing anyway, but it seems clear that they want to take their audience, and us on this recording, on a journey of discovery. These songs all take on new personalities in this recording making this album essential for fans and a good first step for newbies. The only disappointment is that they did not include the entire show.

Order here:

1. Garden of Dreams Medley (12:44)
2. Big Puzzle (20:40)
3. The Dream (7:47)
4. Day For Peace (3:32)
5. What if God is Alone? (7:10)
6. Stardust We Are (28;52)

Hasse Fröberg / vocals, guitars, percussion
Roine Stolt / vocals, guitars
Michael Stolt / bass, moogbass, Vocals
Mirko Demaio / drums, percussion
Lalle Larsson / keys

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