Written by Kevin Black – December 07, 2019
My first concert was in 1970. For the first ten years of my life I wasn’t aware there was an experience like that in existence. One live show and you’re a concert goer for life. At least I was. So, I’ve seen a lot of live rock concerts. But somehow, Kansas was never on any of the bills. Trust me, you don’t want to lose your hearing before getting the chance to encounter a live Kansas performance.
My exposer to the band was FM radio throughout the last forty years, so I didn’t hear a lot of their music except top 40 cuts. Not sure why I never purchased an album. As of late I have spent some time replenishing my album collections and have managed to sweeten the stack with a few. This is where it gets good. Not only am I going to get to photograph this historic rock group but it will be my maiden voyage into what the band’s musicianship is really made of.
The first song for me usually set the standard for what the sound quality is going to be. But of course, you cant’t make a pot of gold out of silver. The band has to give the sound engineer the right ingredients so he can then begin to brew.
Six members of the band opened with an acoustical version of “People of the South Wind” all on stools out front. Normally when I shoot I’m totally focused on my mission which is to capture the musicians at they’re best. I found myself fighting the urge to do so. The five part harmony was so strong and so well mixed that I knew immediately I have been missing out all these years. For those of you who might not attend because there is only two original members, get over it. Ronnie Platt had been a truck driver until 2007 when he joined the band “shooting Star”. Then on to Kansas in 2014. They couldn’t have chosen a better replacement. His vocal range is unbelievable and even feels like he is the original singer.
Phil Ehart, founding member and drummer entered the mix I believe, during the third song. After that I was free to put down the camera and join in with the rest of the audience. The remaining original member and guitarist Richard Williams pretty much keeps to himself in what appears to be total concentration on his part of the recipe. I love history and it still felt historic with the two founding members.
One thing that became apparent soon after I started paying attention to the show was the arrangements of their music. With Ronnie, the lead singer doubling on keyboards along with Tom Brislin who appears to be the youngest member, at times they had a “ELP” and “Yes” feel to some of the songs. My point is, two keyboards with such intricate parts was masterful.
The band played ten songs when I thought I heard them say after this next song we going to do the “Point of No Return” album, get this, “in its entirety”. Who plays almost an entire show and then goes on to play an album in its entirety! Thats what they did. On the twelfth song the backdrop change to reflect the artwork on the album cover. I shot this backdrop but I’m sworn to secrecy of the photo. It will appear in the future. Those of you who were there, you know what I’m talking about. VERY COOL! But there is a teaser with the Kansas backdrop in one of the photos here.
I have to say, all these guys in the group made this show feel like you are truly listing to the original band performing their music. Thats now so important to me because with the rest of the line-up, Billy Greer on Bass/Vocals, David Ragsdale on Violin/Vocals that was a instrument that played a enormous role in the sound of Kansas and Zac Rizvi on guitar and vocals.
Unfortunately I had to leave before the finale so I did’t get to hear one of my fav’s. It wasn’t on the set-list but it could have been part of the encore. The artwork on album cover “Vinyl Confessions” separated itself from the traditional artwork of every other cover but never the less, “Play The Game Tonight” was all Kansas.
I don’t know what else I can tell you to help you decide if your going to spend the money and spend the time, I will say, It is well worth it. Rock on as long as you can Kansas!
One More Thing! I have to give a shout out to “Live Nation” and one of the premier concert venues, The Smart Financial Centre. You Guys Rock It Every Time!