LIVE: Kansas @ Alive at Five, 7/21/11

Richard Williams (photo by Stanley Johnson)
Richard Williams (photo by Stanley Johnson)

The heat wave was roaring at full blast furnace levels last Thursday.

“What are we doing here?,” bassist Billy Greer asked his bandmates and the crowd. “Are we out of our minds?”

The thermometer was bubbling just under 100 degrees, but the fans and the curious alike were out in force at Corning Preserve’s Riverfront Park. Veteran rockers Kansas were churning out their complex, grandiose sound for the latest installment of Albany’s Alive at Five concert series.

Unlike many of the Alive at Five acts on this summer’s roster, the current Kansas line-up boasts a solid core groups of musicians from the band’s heyday – drummer Phil Ehart, vocalist-keyboardist Steve Walsh and guitarist Richard Williams. And they played it like they meant it – no mere going through the motions.

Of course, they served up the hits – “Point of Know Return” (surprisingly early in the show), “Dust in the Wind” (the un-Kansas-like ballad, and perhaps not surprisingly, the band’s biggest hit) and “Carry On Wayward Son” (in the requisite encore slot).

The band’s real strength has always been their artful arrangements, which balance British prog-rock pomposity and American heartland muscle. And they pulled it off with considerable aplomb last week. Walsh’s voice is still in great shape, and abetted by violinist David Ragsdale, the band’s instrumental chops were evident from the start.

Kansas’ mainstream breakthrough album, 1976’s “Leftoverture,” was the primary focus of the show, though it’s interesting to note that the album’s lead-off track, “Carry On Wayward Son,” was the closing song of the show. And “Magnum Opus,” which wrapped up the album, it was their concert opener on Thursday… making for an intriguing turn-about.

Review by Roger Houston
Photographs by Stanley Johnson
Additional photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “‘Dust in the Wind’ came soon after, giving us a quick break from the grandiose. It’s a beautiful song, and Walsh, with violinist David Ragsdale, sounded nice; you realized how unlike Kansas the song is — wonder why they didn’t layer it up years ago with big swelling sounds. Barely halfway through the show they had played two of their three biggest hits. Good for them to use their trump cards early and rely on other strengths.”

Magnum Opus
Point of Know Return
Song for America
On the Other Side
Hold On
Dust in the Wind
The Wall
Miracles Out of Nowhere
Fight Fire With Fire
Carry On Wayward Son

Phil Ehart and Steve Walsh
Phil Ehart and Steve Walsh
Dave Ragsdale (photo by Stanley Johnson)
Dave Ragsdale (photo by Stanley Johnson)
Opening act Spaceland (photo by Stanley Johnson)
Opening act Spaceland (photo by Stanley Johnson)
  1. Rubypet says

    What did Spaceland do?

  2. stan johnson says

    At least one cover, a U2 song, and a lot of deep space drone that was right in sync with the sizzling hot weather. At one point they were singing “Are you ready for Kansas” but I could have heard at least one more of their tunes. They would sound great on a bill with Phantogram and Railbird.

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