You know, I wrote my original review of the Kansas performance in a hurry as to get it posted for my readers. As soon as I hit send I realized I had made a mistake. The mistake was not giving a review that the band deserved. I stayed up late trying to say everything I had seen and heard in a few short paragraphs. Nice and easy. I think Tina Turner said that once, but that’s not how I write. Let me explain…
I had only heard Kansas on the radio when I was a kid. I never owned any of their records (that’s how we old peeps say vinyl). I mean I could identify a handful of songs and I could tell you that it was Kansas singing that song. I couldn’t tell you anything about the band at all. I blew them off as “that was before my time”, music. Looking back, those words could almost be blasphemy coming from a rock junkie like me. There should never be music before or after your time. There should just be music. We can decide later on if it’s our taste in music and even that should be debated more.
The night of the show as I loaded up my gear, (yeah that means I left my purse at home and carried a camera bag) I sang the small handful of songs I knew. First, there is of course, “Dust In The Wind”, that’s any easy one, the song that questions our existence. I got in the car and sang a very loud, quite off key rendition of “Carry On Wayward Son”. This one did conjure up a memory or two, sitting out by the lake with a group of friends listening to Z92, enjoying food, drink and other substances, as one does on a hot, muggy night in Omaha. Most of the time the food wasn’t high on our priority list, well…never, really. So, moving on. I pulled into the parking lot of the Ralston Arena when I recall the song Point Of No Return. I hum the violin part and shout out the lyrics. Goes something like this: “how long!” violin, violin “how long!” violin, violin… you get it.
After an amazing performance by Winger (see part 1 for review) I walk around the Ralston Arena getting a good look around. The stage crew was preparing for the Kansas show. The drum kit was already set up. Other instruments were being strategically placed around the stage, too. One thing I found interesting was a lonely acoustic guitar propped on a stand, sideways, as if it were ready to play without being picked up. Come to find out later in the show, that is exactly why it was placed like that. Rich Williams (guitarist) would switch between his electric guitar and the freestanding acoustic without setting either down, this making it easier to switch effects in mid song. A backdrop was being hoisted up the back wall of the stage. A copy of the John Brown mural that adorns a wall inside the Kansas state capital building is also Kansas’ first self-titled album cover.
Kansas entered the stage around 9pm and they smoothly went into the first song of the night, “Belexes”. This song had an operatic sound, due partly to the violin blended with hard rock guitar solos’. As the night went on, I felt every song was a symphony of rock n roll, a dance of violin, synthesizer, guitar and percussion. Their songs were progressive in every sense of the word, as they built their songs to crescendo and then blending voice and harmony. The lights would keep in tempo with the instruments from songs like "Opus Insert" , with soft blues and brass orange it was an incredible display.
There I was in the middle of the auditorium, my camera lowered standing in complete silence, in awe of how this band had moved me. How had I missed this? Why hadn’t I noticed this band, Kansas, the band I had only bothered to hear on the radio?
My trance was broken, I remembered I needed to get a few more pictures and observe the audience. I headed to the back of the auditorium to what would normally be the “nosebleed” section. Except the Ralston Arena didn’t have a bad section, every seat seem to be a good seat.
I found an empty seat far enough back to see the entire arena, moments later one of the radio songs I hummed in my car earlier had started. “Dust In The Wind”. As the lights lowered, the soft violin started and everyone was pulling out their cell phones to illuminate the darkness and show their love for the song. (Remember when it was lighters? It’s lucky we didn’t burn down the Civic Auditorium a long time ago.) The show ended with one encore song, “Carry On Wayward Son” and as they say, the crowd went wild…
Well here I am four days later and still humming the Kansas' songs. I play my “air” violin as I hum and sing the words to more songs than just the original three I stared out with. Here I am with this new review that is more dedicated to you, more respectful to Kansas. And more a honorable to myself.
Hum along with me next time, show me your “air” violin, guitar or drums. Find new music in the old music. If we have learned anything from American Idol, X-Factor and Guitar Heroes is that we can only recycle songs if we actually listen to them.
Phil Ehart- Drums & Percussion
Billy Greer-Bass & Vocals
Ronnie Platt-Vocals & Keyboard
David Ragsdale-Violin & Guitar
The curtain closes on this two part review.
This is Penny signing off! See you soon, see you there!
PS Don’t forget to tip your bartender/server
This is the setlist for the show: