For you readers who have recently hopped on the TG Geeks Bandwagon, here is some little bit of info about myself. I love music. I love it so much I became a musician. While I hardly play these days, my passion for the form has not diminished, and while I love almost all forms of music, the one genre that has me continually coming back to is Progressive Rock, and of the prog rock bands out there, and there are many that I’m crazy about, my favorite band is, and will always be, KANSAS!
The band has gone through a lot of changes over the years since they first came together back in the very early 70’s, and while some of the musicians that I’ve come to admire are gone, those who have stepped into those big shoes have done so with style and lots of talent, which has not only kept the band sounding as sharp as it did back in the earlier days of its life, but has also reenergized it to the point where not only are they touring like a machine, but they also went back into the studio and recorded a new album, and then went on tour in support of that album AND in celebration of the 40thAnniversary of their breakthrough album Leftoverture, all at the same time!
Now they are on a slightly smaller tour as they just wrapped up celebrating one album and are poised to do another album tour later this year, but for now they are doing a tour titled KANSAS Radio Classics & Fan Favorites, and it was this tour that I had the enormous pleasure of being able to listen to my heroes in concert yet one more time!
[In all honesty, I have seen Kansas more than any other band, to the point that I’ve actually lost count!]
Just to not have any spoilers this time I actually avoided reading ahead of time what the setlist was to be for this show. I plunked down a pretty nice bit of money for 2ndrow seats that placed me almost dead in front of Richard Williams, the guitarist and one of the two remaining original members of the band. The venue was the new Grand Ballroom at Talking Stick Casino in Scottsdale AZ, and this venue was packed with fans! I remember seeing Kansas for the first time in 1980 during their Audio-Visions tour (which was also my very first rock concert), and was just dazzled by some of the theatrics and fancy presentations the band used as their introduction and entrance to the stage. While I still yearn to see them do something like this again, it was still wonderful to see them just walk on the dimly lit stage and play some legato arrangement of a fan favorite that hadn’t seen much play in their career, that being “On The Other Side.” From there the band just walked from one fan favorite or hit to another, including going as far back as performing the very song “Can I Tell You” that they recorded as a demo for Don Kirshner, which also appeared on their very first self-titled album, and I would have to say that this was easily the first time I have ever seen them perform this song. However it did make perfect sense for this song to also be on the setlist as it was the one that got them on Kirshner’s radar, followed by signing them to a record deal. The fact that it was also one of the first songs they ever played on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert just cemented the need to have this as part of the show. From there it was radio hit after radio hit, which I’m sure sounds unusual given that most people only know them for probably two of the biggest classic rock songs of all time, “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind,” but if you grew up listening to FM radio during the 80’s there is no doubt that many of these songs, while not exactly song charting hits in their own right, did get their fair amount of radio play, so that’s why songs like “What’s On My Mind” and “The Wall” were a part of this show.
Now people who know me are well aware that I really enjoy good surprises, and one of those is to hear them pull out songs that haven’t been performed in over 20 years, including one such song that was actually a big MTV hit titled “All I Wanted.” What made this so magical is that, despite being over 30 years old, the band played it with a freshness that quite literally made me feel as if I were in my 20’s again. THAT is the power and magic that this band played with. Even the classic song “Dust In The Wind” still felt really fresh. This wasn’t a band that was “going through the motions” (which is oddly enough a song off of one of their albums that I hope to hear performed live one day), but being seated so close to the stage allowed me to see for myself why all of these songs sounded so good, and a large part of that is due to them clearly having a good time. Fans who have followed any major band for any length of time are clearly aware of dissention and bad feelings that can creep into its membership, but there was no evidence of that this night. This was a band where everyone was smiling! One magical moment saw Richard Williams smiling as keyboardist Dave Manion was finishing up a very fiery solo on the Hammond B3 Organ, then later Dave would smile towards violinist David Ragsdale during one of his solos. These guys LOVE what they’re doing, and they love the songs they play. This clearly helps since 5 of the 7 members are not originals, although bass player Billy Greer joined up in the mid 80’s for the Power album, and violinist Ragsdale joined in the 90’s, so their fit with the band, and their comfort level with the material, is very well established. Adding to the mix would be new lead singer/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, followed by Manion on keyboards and even more recently Zak Rizvi on guitar. The fact that three of the 7 have only collectively been with the band for a few years, and yet their love of this music shows as every song was played with a gusto and passion that had fans on their feet throughout the almost 2 hours of the concert.
The one serious surprise is that at no time did they go for any REALLY DEEP cuts. True while some of these songs hadn’t been played for decades, they don’t really qualify as the deep cuts that the die-hard fans would love to hear. However, given that they just came off of a celebratory album tour and are soon to go on another one certainly allows for me to be quite forgiving with the choice of songs for this show. Besides, the songs that did get selected, while not deep cuts per se, are definitely radio tunes from their time and to hear them performed created an unbelievably enjoyable experience!
As of this printing KANSAS will be performing their Radio Classics & Fan Favorites tour next at the San Diego County Fair on June 7, and will continue on this tour through September 22 when they bring it to a close at the Alcove Springs Park in Blue Rapids, Kansas. They will then be launching their “Point Of Know Return Tour” on in Atlanta, GA on September 28 at the Cobb Energy Performing Center, which will have them perform every song from that album in its entirety (If I’m not mistaken, one or two of those songs have never been performed in their entirety, so this tour will make it a first for them!), plus they will undoubtedly treat the fans to some very rare songs (The Leftoverture Tour had them play a personal favorite, but almost never performed song “Lamplight Symphony.”), and that tour will easily finish out 2018 and take them well into 2019.
Some people would just dismiss them because they may be viewed as some dinosaur band, or an oldies band. To those people I would say that you have no idea what you’re missing. If you like watching and listening to a band with HIGHLY skilled musicians (I’m still geeking out over a guitar solo I saw Williams do that night!), then check them out!!! You don’t have to know each and every song to be able to appreciate the musicianship of these guys. From Ronnie Platt’s soaring vocals and incredible stage presence, to the unbelievable machine work of drummer, and only other remaining original member, Phil Ehart, this is a band that feels FRESH AND ALIVE!!! If you’re thing is going to a concert to see some amazing musicians perform then you’ll want to see KANSAS!!!
To learn more about KANSAS just visit their website.
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