Three days after the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil brought the country to its knees on September 11, 2001, I had a rare opportunity to witness The Flower Kings perform live in the States in what turned out to be a transcendent concert experience.
This gig, recorded specifically for DVD on what appears to be a spacious yet still crowded soundstage in Uppsala, Sweden, in front of a subdued by-invitation-only audience, understandably lacks some of the raw emotion of those post-9/11 gigs, but it doesn't mean The Flower Kings performing live still isn't a sight to behold.
On Meet The Flower Kings-@live Recording 2003, recorded on Feb. 10th of that year, the band runs through seven of its progressive-rock epics, interspersed with personal video-camera footage of The Flower Kings on tour in the States, Europe and South America, as well as film of the band in the studio and setting up for the DVD shoot.
Live, The Flower Kings exude an energy that's seldom heard on their long-winded albums. Bass player Jonas Reingold, keyboardist Tomas Bodin and Hungarian drummer Zoltan Csörsz handle their instruments with precise animation, and guest multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Daniel Gildenlow (Pain of Salvation) and Hasse Bruniusson are welcome additions that add depth and fullness to the band's sound. But guitarist and singer Hasse Fröberg (who appears to be sporting a hair-dye job here) fills the band's ultimate rock-star role by throwing around his long mane, posing in faux metal-god stances and performing with nonstop intensity – not bad for a guy fighting the flu when this set was filmed. Guitarist and singer Roine Stolt, by comparison, seldom moves, yet his vocals sound tougher here than they do on the group's albums. Stunning highlights include a beautiful rendition of "Garden of Dreams," a solid run-through of "Silent Inferno," "The Truth Will Set You Free" from the band's latest album Unfold the Future, and an unusually heavy version of "Stardust We Are."
Stolt, who produced this DVD, attempts to get arty by including images of a ballerina, woods, leaves, psychedelics and a shirtless man juggling fire sticks superimposed over the band, but they just detract from the experience of watching The Flower Kings make timeless music that blows your mind. A 2.0 stereo mix is disappointing, too, as 5.1 surround sound would have elevated this DVD to a higher level. As it is, Meet The Flower Kings still stands as a representative example of this band's sweeping music and – as it did back on Sept. 14, 2001 – its oddly soothing power.