Kansas, Rams Head Live, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, July 10, 2015
The 1970s were known for a lot of things musically… one of which was the rise of the rock super groups. The 1970s saw an unprecedented rise in the number of rock bands that could consistently sell millions of albums and fill stadiums with an order of magnitude that has not really been seen since. Having grown up in the 70s, these were the groups that helped shape and mold my musical tastes into what they are today. There were many that influenced me, but Kansas was definitely near the top of my list. Due to conflicts, a break up, and a reformation in the mid 80s, Rich Williams and Phil Ehart are the only original members remaining, but two of the other members, Billy Greer and David Ragsdale, have been with the band for decades. Due to last year’s departure to the band’s original vocalist, Steve Walsh, Ronnie Platt was recently added as the band’s new vocalist. Dave Manion, the band’s longtime lighting specialist took over the main keyboard duties. I never had the opportunity to see Kansas back in the day … but I finally got the chance this year… 39 years after I bought my first Kansas album (“Leftoverture”).
The opening act was a local band called Rob Fahey and the Pieces. Rob has been a fixture in the Baltimore music scene for many years, but this was the first time I’ve heard him play. He is also the lead singer for the rock band The Ravyns. The band was musically very good. Because he both played guitar and sang, Rob was fairly stationary during the performance and I found my attention drawn to the lead guitarist, the bass player, and the drummer, all of whom were much more animated and more fun to watch. Rob and company played an eight song set. The only song I recognized was, “Raised on the Radio” from the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. I really enjoyed their show and hope to see them again!
It was a bit of a surreal moment for me when Kansas finally took the stage. Of all the great bands I followed while growing up, Kansas was the one band I had yet to see live. The almost sold out crowd was enthusiastic and loud. Kansas hit the stage with the up tempo song “People of the Southwind”, from their late 70s album “Monolith” which was quickly followed by “Point of Know Return”. The music was great and the new singer did an excellent job! I actually wouldn’t have even known he wasn’t Steve Walsh if I hadn’t already heard about Steve’s retirement. The majority of the set came from the “Leftoverture” album, including “The Wall”, “What’s On My Mind”, “Opus Insert”, and “Miracles Out of Nowhere”. The “Point of Know Return” album was also heavily represented with “Portrait”, “Sparks of the Tempest”, “Closet Chronicles”, and their biggest hit, “Dust in the Wind”.
There were a few songs from, what I at least consider, their newer albums (meaning from the 1980s). These included “Play the Game” and “Hold On”. “Belexes” was the only song played from their first three albums. Nothing was played from any of their albums post 1984. After much cheering from the audience, the band return for two encores, which were a mix of the old and the “new”. First up was “Fight Fire with Fire” from their 1983 album, “Drastic Measures”. As expected, the final song was the ever classic, “Carry On Wayward Son”.
Overall, it was a great show and I had a great time. I was also pleased with the overall song selection and was especially thrilled to hear “Sparks of the Tempest” and “Closet Chronicles”. The music and the vocals were excellent, and were very close to the sound on the original albums. I did have some disappointments was well, though. Obviously, it would have been great to see all of the original band… but this would have require seeing a show prior to 1983. I also wish they had played more songs from their earlier albums, especially “Song For America”…. And their set was short, only an hour and a half. Now I know that 90 minutes is becoming a more typical concert length for a headliner, versus the classic 2 hour show. But for a band that is entering their fifth decade… well…. They certainly have a large enough back catalog of music to have played a little longer!! But what we got was great… and hopefully I won’t wait 39 years to see them the next time….