Yes, I spent the evening with Kansas… Or rather I was in the audience listening to one of my all time favorite bands since I was a teenager. I had been looking forward to this concert ever since the tour was first announced last year, and what I saw tonight absolutely amazing.
Now I’m not going to rehash all the things about Kansas that appeal to me. I covered that in great detail back in TG Geeks Episode 3 from almost three years ago. This article is about the concert I just came from.
Kansas is currently touring on two fronts. First, there is the release of their latest studio album, The Prelude Implicit, which came out last September. Now that alone was enough to excite me and see them in concert, but that was only part of the show as the band is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of their big, breakthrough album, Leftoverture, which put them on the top 40 map. So, like so many other bands have been doing recently, Kansas decided to take this album and actually perform all of the songs in their entirety, first track to last track, and that would include songs that have been seldom performed, as well as one song that was NEVER performed. This concert was a combination of these two fronts. No, that’s not the right word… Celebration. That is the right word! It was a celebration that Kansas is still a musical force to be reckoned with through the release of their last recording, as well as a celebration of the album that made them famous, and both audience and band were clearly feeling very celebratory tonight!
The concert started off rather humbly. In fact it started off acoustically. They played a short acoustic set of about four songs that included material that had not been played for many years. To hear those songs again must have caught some of the audience off guard, especially those who stayed away from any spoilers regarding the set list. It was a nice touch to slowly bring the audience in, and then (as the chef Emeril would say) they kicked it up a notch. Drummer (and manager of the band) Phil Ehart came out and the band went full electric, playing a setlist of songs that covered their entire existence. From their biggest album, Point Of Know Return, to their very first self-titled album (where they played the song Journey From Mariabronn with perfect precision), all the way to more songs from their latest release, they proved that after all these years they could still play those complex songs with the same technical and musical prowess as they did back in the 1970’s. They even reached into their own archives and played a song off of their second album that had not been part of a tour since that very album came out! I knew this song was to be performed, but hearing it for the first time with my own ears made for this concert to be an almost religious experience. The band finally closed the first segment of the show with an instrumental track from their new album titled Section 60, which is about our fallen soldiers. To help deliver a special impact on this track, a soldier stood at one side of the stage with a folded American flag. It was a moment that clearly left a lump in many people’s throats.
The set covering Leftoverture was better than what I could have hoped for, starting with a recording of someone changing the radio dial, only to land on some station that had the opening chorus from Carry On Wayward Song as it appeared on the album. Once the instruments kicked in on the album, so did the band, and they rocked it through every song on the album through to the concert closer, as well as the encore. What tied this all together, was not just the quality of the songs, both old and new, but the quality in which this was all played.
One track from the new album, The Voyage Of Eight Eighteen, is probably the most “progressive” track, and one that I have listened to quite a bit. Yet when I watched them tonight I heard parts that escaped me when listening to the CD in my car, and those parts had a complexity to me that was stunning! Not only can this band continue to write and arrange complex music, they perform their parts as skillfully as they used to with some of their older material. It didn’t matter what the age is for the varying members of the band. They played ALL of this material with a note-perfect skill. This band performs like a perfectly oiled machine! Of course watching these band members interact with each other on stage it becomes clear that these musicians all like each other enormously. They’re not performing because “that’s their job.” They’re performing because that’s what they love to do, and listening to the audience scream and cheer louder than the band itself, the guys in the band certainly fed off of that enthusiastic energy. They had fun, the audience had fun, which made the band have even more fun!
Music can be used to evoke emotions. What I felt tonight was sheer joy. Listening to these songs did take me back to my youth, but that’s not all. Hearing the quality of this music, played more than just skillfully by this band, and hearing songs that I have loved for years, but never expected to hear performed live, gave me a sense of joy that had me dancing in my seat, and when the concert ended, that joy had me floating out of the Chandler Center for Performing Arts (where the concert was held) all the way out to my car. To this band, all I can say is thank you. I know I’m just a voice in the crowd, but it was a loud voice amongst many other loud voices cheering you on throughout the concert. Putting it plainly, Kansas played their butts off and sounded as good as when I saw them the very first time back in 1980. Saying thank you feels inadequate. This band deserves more than just a thank you, but that’s all I have. The only thing I might add is, if you’re looking for a good show with a good rock band, playing some really good and complex music, check out this tour. Even Keith found himself having a fun time during this show. This isn’t a band for old people, and it isn’t a band for young ones either. This is a band for people who simply like good music! Check them out. You will not be sorry!!!
To learn more about Kansas, check out their website.
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