Kansas: Celebrating Five Decades of Musical Excellence

Kansas performing at the Midland Theater in Kansas City. Photo by Josh Chaikin

As they say, nothing beats the classics, and when it comes to classic rock, few bands have reached the level that Kansas has. With hits like Dust in the Wind, and Carry On Wayward son firmly engrained in the cultural zeitgeist, it’s hard not to argue their impact. Formed over 50 years ago in Topeka Kansas, the show in Kansas City could be considered a sort of hometown show. In fact, several in attendance that night had been there since the beginning, seeing them perform shows at the VFW in Topeka.

The band’s recent concert tour, celebrating their 50th anniversary, brought them back home to Kansas City. It was an evening filled not just with nostalgia, but also a reaffirmation of the band’s continued relevance and musical prowess.

The concert was an incredible celebration of the band’s continued legacy. Starting before 8:00, without an opener, Kansas started with a bang, kicking things off with 1974’s Belexes, putting their unmistakable prog sound on full display, before quickly moving into one of their bigger radio hits Point of Know Return.

With original vocalist, Steve Walsh, nearly a decade gone from the band now, the “new kid” Ronnie Platt was on full display, and filled the shoes perfectly. Charismatic, and hitting the high notes, his performance certainly delighted all those in attendance.

The band’s current lineup consists of original drummer Phil Ehart (though, due to injuries, Phil only plays for half the show, with his drum tech, Eric Holmquist filling in, flawlessly, for the remainder of the show) bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, violinist/guitarist Joe Deninzon, keyboardist Tom Brislin, and original guitarist Richard Williams.

However, the concert had a special surprise. Original bass player Dave Hope, donning a KU Jayhawk hat (Chiefs may have been too on-the-nose) also made a surprise appearance during the performance of “Song for America”, and during the encore. Also joining the band onstage during these moments was original guitarist, Kerry Livgren, filling out their already large sound, creating something sonically unmatched.

Kansas’ performance was a masterclass in musicianship, each song perfectly executed with the precision and passion that has characterized their music for the past 50 years. The band’s setlist was a perfect blend of their greatest hits and fan favorites, with each song eliciting cheers from the audience, and a standing ovation at the end. Maybe it was the age of the crowd, or the vibe from the band, but, throughout most of the show, the entire audience remained seated. It was also refreshing to not have a sea of cellphones held up throughout the entire performance.

Among the highlights was their renditions of Dust in the Wind and Carry on Wayward Son, two of their biggest hits that have become anthems for generations of rock music fans. Though I’m personally a fan of The Wall. The band’s performance of these songs was nothing short of magical.

With the night drawing to a close, the band returned to the stage for an encore. As the first notes of Carry On Wayward Son filled the air, the crowd erupted in cheers. It was a fitting end to a spectacular night of music, the band’s performance a testament to their enduring talent and timeless appeal.

As the concert concluded, it was clear that Kansas‘ music continues to resonate with fans, old and new. Their songs, a unique blend of rock and progressive elements, have stood the test of time, their melodies as captivating and their lyrics as poignant as they were when first released. And though they may not have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (though they have been nominated over a dozen times), it clearly has not impacted their legacy, and their place in the history of Rock and Roll is firmly established.

Words and Photos by Josh Chaikin
Additional writing by Sonny Wright

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