The Flower Kings & Spock's Beard, Islington Assembly Hall, London
Two prog superpowers from opposite sides of the Atlantic collided last night.
By Andy Rawll.
Led by founder and transatlantic general Roine Stolt, the Flower Kings delivered a sparkling set of psychedelia-tinged marvel that combined rich Floydian soundscapes with beatific Beatlesque melodies.
These regal florists delved deep into the band’s sonic vault to delight long-time fans with an hour’s set of five long-form songs, each from a different album, from 1996’s ‘Retropolis’ to 2006’s ‘Paradox Hotel. Strangely, there was nothing from the excellent new album ‘Manifesto of an Architect’; whose riches will need to wait for discovery on a future tour. A florid delight. How Swede it was.
Retaining its original triumvirate of guitar, bass and keyboards, Spock's Beard has positively thrived since the arrival of current frontman and one-time Enchanter Ted Leonard in 2011.
Latest album ‘Noise Floor’ is an eclectic beast and one of their best of any era, epitomised by energetically harmonious show opener ‘Breathe Another Day’, which is more than a match than the other supreme Ted-led song ‘Something Very Strange’. The live sound was impeccable, with Dave Meros Esquire’s fluid and thunderous bass providing the granite-hard bedrock upon which the complex and counterpointed keyboards and darting guitar created a mighty edifice of sound.
The song selection, old and new, included the seasonally appropriate ‘Walking in the Wind’. Ironically, it was this song that restored normal service as a power glitch had temporarily blown-out the back-line sound and an unrehearsed, unplugged version of fan-favourite ‘June’ provided shelter from the technical storm.
Although worthy, given the recent anniversary of Lennon’s death, the extended encore of ‘Hey Jude’, with avenging kings and beards assembled, was not quite the triumphant finale that this evening merited. Yet, with both bands’ label ‘InsideOut’ now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the gig provided ample evidence that contemporary progressive music continues to boldly go where other genres fear to thread.
All in all, a Vulcan great and aurally fragrant night out.