Leftoverture at 40 still crisp by Kansas at 44

Leftoverture at 40 still crisp by Kansas at 44

Online purchase of two tickets, four rows back from Stage Left:  $216.00

Pre-concert dinner of Coneys, Frito Pie and iced tea:  $8.95

The cheapest swag item and two skunky draft beers:  $43.00

Taking in the sounds of one of the most iconic bands of my youth in the same venue where I paid to see my first ever concert forty years ago to the very evening:  PRICELESS!!!

You read that correctly.  Forty years ago, on what was then a Friday evening March 25th, 1977, Yours Truly paid his way into the Old Lady on Brady to see his first-ever rock concert.  As I gazed around that grand auditorium before the show last night reminiscing on where I sat as a high school senior awed by the showmanship of the headliner of that Spring Break kickoff rock & roll spectacle, I found myself wondering as to the whereabouts of Todd Rundgren and what he was up to on this particular evening and whatever became of his old group, Utopia.  One thing about attending concerts put on by the timeless groups of my youth, I never seem to appear out of place with the main demographic represented by their audience.  As I approached the front door of the place I almost expected to get asked for my AARP card along with my ticket.  The ticket prices spurred their fair share of reminiscing as well.  The last time I paid to see Kansas in concert was January 8th, 1978 at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Pavilion.  A then mostly unknown group opened for them, one you may have actually heard of by now by the name of Cheap Trick.  That performance was shortly after the release of their album Point of Know Return.  It contained a message I needed to hear at that time as I was set to leave for Navy boot camp at the end of that particular month.

Oh the days of $7.00 concert tickets.  The music may be old but it is still every bit as good as it was back in the day.  Yes, I will go so far as to say it is still worth the price of a ticket purchase online.

 This tour by the latest version of the group that has made music under the name Kansas since 1973 is a 40th anniversary celebration of their album Leftoverture, which was released in late 1976.  This band is responsible for several songs that comprised a lengthy segment of my playlists of the late 1970s and ’80s.  Even still, the show was not limited solely to that album as they performed songs from their entire repertoire including tracks from their latest album and the first in sixteen years, The Prelude Implicit.

There are only two of the current seven band members who numbered among the original 1973 lineup, those being lead guitarist Rich Williams and percussionist Phil Ehart, but the personnel changes haven’t seemed to alter their sound quality.  One band member with a local connection includes a violinist who once played with the Tulsa Philharmonic, David Ragsdale.  Other members include bass player Billy Greer, lead vocalist Ronnie Platt, keyboard player David Manion, and rhythm guitarist Zak Rizvi.  I admire punctuality.  The show began promptly at 8 PM.  The first half hour or so contained a patchwork of newer and older tracks.  There was a focus on string strength early.  At the thirty minute mark they launched into one of my favorites, Point of Know Return.  I was impressed by Mr. Ragsdale’s string skills both on violin and guitar.  He underscored this with his execution of Dust in the Wind.

David Ragsdale

I actually have seen Kansas in concert once since 1978.  The year was 1995 and they were playing an open air Independence Day celebration on the main quad at Naval Station Great Lakes when I was stationed at the Naval Hospital there.  It was never made clear to me which member of the group then whose son had just graduated Navy boot camp at Great Lakes but the dad band member held some sway over where the group would visit and play.  Remembering this, I was not at all surprised by their song The Unsung Heroes from their latest album.  A uniformed veteran appeared on stage with a folded American flag during the performance of this song.

 Approaching the ninety minute mark of their set, the band launched into Leftoverture.  A few ever so minor tweaks aside, I thought it was comparable to turning on my stereo.  Technically speaking, the sounds were all on the money and as impressive as I always remembered them.

David Ragsdale, Phil Ehart and Zak Rizvi

After the end of the set, which concluded after all the album tracks were played in their entirety, the band exited the stage and then returned for an encore performance.  After a two hour and fifteen minute show, the band wrapped up with a track off Point of Know Return, Paradox.

Ronnie Platt, David Ragsdale, and Phil Ehart

From my up close vantage point, it was a milestone evening well spent among like-minded souls.  When it comes to music the listener either likes what they hear or they do not.  I will go out on a limb here and say that Kansas makes the brand of music that over time has become an integral part of my own character.  I cannot fathom assembling the soundtrack of my life without have a few Kansas tracks blasting the group’s signature sound at regular intervals.  Validation of this sentiment will be made in the fullness of time when my current endeavor at writing a novel based on my high school senior year personal daily journal is completed.  The chapter concurrent with the anniversary date noted above has already been inked and details of the reference concert and venue have already been well described, but I digress.  I would like to extend my thanks to the musicians, managers and promoters that were able to make such a memorable auditory experience happen last night.  If Kansas and established groups of their genre continue to make their signature brand of music, myself and all the other audience members from this latest show will continue to listen.

Carry On Wayward Son

1 Comment

  1. Cliff Jenke
    Mar 28, 2017

    Very good write up Stan. Thank you for sharing that. “Long Live Rock 🎸 “