LIVE: Kansas @ The Palace Theatre, 10/26/2019

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“Bet ya didn’t expect that!” said a smiling Ronnie Platt as he soaked in the applause of the Palace Theatre last Saturday.

Kansas had just played a rousing rendition of their classic rock radio staple “Carry On Wayward Son” to close out the night’s performance. Now he may have been sarcastically referring to the song choice; after all, “Carry on” has been Kansas’s encore number for years. But he may have been alluding to exactly what I was thinking at that moment,  which was: “Damn, how incredibly impressive was Kansas over the last two hours?”

Sure there are only two original members left from the band’s 70’s heyday: drummer Phil Ehart and guitarist Rich Williams. But bassist and vocalist Billy Greer and Violinist / guitarist David Ragsdale can also qualify as veterans, having been in the trenches on and off since the 80’s. Newer recruits are lead vocalist Platt, guitarist Zak Rizvi, and the rookie Tom Brislin on keys, who came aboard a year ago. Brislin has touring stints with both Yes and Renaissance on his C.V. (2 bands that influenced Kansas) and it showed. His keyboard work, essential to the band’s sound, was stellar, and he positively reveled in his many solos, attacking them with glee.

When they last played the capital region at the Egg in April of last year, Platt has the toughest shoes to fill replacing original frontman Steve Walsh. At his peak, Walsh was one of the best vocalists in the hard rock / prog genre. Platt had won me over last year and if anything was even better this night. His strong and convincing singing was a highlight of the entire set, and not even the most hardcore devotee of the original band could have bemoaned Walsh’s absence.

Kansas obviously has a lot of respect for their fans too, as the set list bore little relation to the one they played a year ago. They started with a four song acoustic set, followed by a deep dive into their varied catalog, and closed triumphantly with a complete run through of their 1977 album “Point of Know Return,” celebrating its 42nd anniversary.

Now of course in 1977 conventional wisdom had it that prog was dead, the coffin lid securely fastened by the three nails of disco, punk & new wave. Only no one seemed to have informed this “garage rock band from Topeka,” who quietly put together an absolute classic of the genre. Hearing it again all the way through reminded one of what a great album it is, elegant and eloquent, grandiose and gigantic. It became their best selling catalog album due to the inclusion of the crossover smash hit “Dust in the Wind,” but really there’s not a duff track on it. The fact that 42 years later, the current touring incarnation of this band can do it full and complete justice is indeed a “miracle out of nowhere.”Kansas – “Hopelessly Human” and on this night, practically perfect.

Set list:
Acoustic: People of the Southwind, Hold on, Refugee, Lonely wind,
Electric: Cold grey morning, Two cents worth, The wall, Song for America, What’s on my mind, Icarus – Borne on wings of steel, Miracles out of nowhere
“Point of Know Return” :Point of Know return, Paradox, The Spider, Portrait (he knew), Closet Chronicles, Lightning’s hand, Dust in the wind, Sparks of the Tempest, Nobody’s Home, Hopelessly Human
Encore: Carry on Wayward Son

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