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Spock's Beard / The Flower Kings http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/ca/47/31/spocks-beard-2018-thumb-44-1545930305.jpg

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 26, 2018    
 
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Spock's Beard / The Flower Kings - Islington Assembly Hall, London (UK) - 09 December 2018

On a personal level I have had the immense privilege and pleasure of covering releases and gigs by artists on the InsideOut label for almost the entire 25 years they've been in existence. This gig was part of a short tour put together in celebration of their silver anniversary and it has to go down as the best double bill I've ever attended.

First up was Roine Stolt & Friends, aka The Flower Kings, who frankly were absolutely sensational. I've seen them live many times and never been anything less than impressed, but tonight they really smashed it out of the park. The addition of youthful keyboardist Zach Kamins and drummer Mirko DeMaio injected proceedings with an extra flair and power. DeMaio delivered a performance of both power and dexterity while Kamins nailed the keyboard parts and even improved on them. Judging by the smile on Stolt's face during Kamin's solo spots he clearly agreed with me on that point.

Despite the power and Jonas Reingold's thunderous bass and bass pedals, the sound was perfectly balanced with every nuance audible as they ran through four epic numbers plucked from the band's early albums, each of which received an ovation from an unusually large London crowd, particularly for a Sunday.

I don't think I was the only one with a grin on my face from the start to the finish of their glorious set as they delivered seventy-five minutes of exquisite and dexterous musicianship and wonderful melodies. I've always felt that the dual vocals of Stolt and Hasse Fröberg to be a major benefit and tonight was further vindication of my view, whether they are taking the lead or combining it was pure magic. Stolt peeled off one delicious guitar solo after another to add the cherry on top of the cream that sat on the wonderful cake.

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From my perspective they couldn't have chosen a better set list as they played 'Last Minute On Earth / What If God Is Alone?', 'The Truth Will Set You Free', 'There Is More To This World' and 'Stardust We Are', each one a sure-fire winner chock full of wonderful refrains and lines of lyrics that stick in your head. Hats off to them for having a lengthy taped intro to the show that built the atmosphere before they stepped out onto the stage. I think it's fair to say that the band departed the scene with the audience's adulation ringing in their ears, a response fully justified by their fantastic performance.

The changeover was mercifully short and the beardy ones were soon with us and I didn't envy them having to follow TFK after that performance, but they didn't disappoint even if they didn't quite manage to take the honours on the night. I started in the photo pit, moved to the back of the main hall and then tried the balcony, but in each location Ted Leonard's vocals were never crystal clear except for the quieter numbers, so that did detract just a little; it was also surprising given the clarity of the vocals during TFK's set.

However, they did demonstrate immense professionalism when the power on stage failed during 'One So Wise', leaving just the microphones and acoustic guitar operational. A brief drum solo by Mike Thorne was followed by Alan Morse starting up an impromptu version of the classic 'June'. Leonard added the vocals and as the electricity returned the other band members joined in. I couldn't help wondering whether new boy Thorne had ever played/rehearsed this song, if not he certainly fitted in seamlessly and is undoubtedly the right choice to fill the drum stool. They then played the interrupted song in full which subsequently meant the expected 'Go The Way You Go' had to be dropped from the set due to the impending curfew.

The set was very well balanced between the three eras of the band's history, with 'To Die Another Day', 'Beware Of Darkness', 'In The Mouth Of Madness', 'Something Very Strange' and 'Thoughts Part II' each hitting the mark, but the highlight for me was the rendition of the ballad 'She Is Everything' from the 'Octane' album which was spine-tinglingly good. I'm sure he wasn't amused but Morse missed the cue for his guitar solo, however when he did produce it it was utterly splendid.

The encore consisted of TFK returning to the stage as the two bands joined together for a fine cover of The Beatles' 'Hey Jude' which rounded out a superb evening.

Gary Marshall

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