That was damn good.
A sentiment a fan said in the elevator after the show and one I wholly concur.
Actually, Kansas rocked.
Kansas – the band from Topeka, Kansas – played to a near sold-out crowd of 1,500 on Sunday at ilani Casino in Ridgefield, WA and proved old(er) musicians can learn new tricks and age is just a number. The 90 minute, 17-song setlist encompassed the past and present in a slick concert these veterans of rock mastered in the 1970s.
Kansas officially formed in 1973 and though their original lineup or any type of classic lineup dissolved decades ago the current members hardly embody a band of spring chickens. Founding guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart remain along with bassist Billy Greer, who started thumping for the band in 1985, David Ragsdale on violin and guitar first started in 1991 for six years but returned in 2006 while Ronnie Platt took over vocal duties in 2014 and the youngster (born the year Kansas formed) Tom Brislin on keyboards joined in 2018.
Kansas touched nine albums on this 2022 Classics Tour including their 16th release The Absence of Presence in 2020 delivering fan favorites and deep dives that showed the band’s breadth and progression as the decades of rock passed. Of course, their smash albums The Point of No Return and Leftoverture contributed to almost half the evening’s selections.
Side note: Kansas is also touring The Point of Know Return, I believe in its entirety, for which I had tickets in March 2020 and got a refund after the date was postponed twice because of the pandemic. They finally fulfilled that show last week in Salem, OR but thankfully they added this extra date.
As such, “The Point of No Return” opened the evening followed by “What’s On My Mind” off Leftoverture but perhaps some forgotten gems ensued in “Two Cents Worth” and “Icarus – Borne on Wings of Steel” both off 1975’s Masque. Kansas also did not forget their beginnings playing “Can I Tell You” the first track from their 1974 self-title debut, a song Greer said got the band a record contract.
Kansas took a quasi-unplugged approach midway through the set as Williams replaced his electric with an acoustic guitar for “People of the South Wind,” a stirring “Hold On,” the moving “Memories Down the Line” from the new album and the always tear-jerking “Dust in the Wind” which got much of the audience off their feet upon its finish. Greer shared that “Dust in the Wind” started as a finger picking exercise for founding member and guitarist Kerry Livgren until his wife said he should turn what he was playing into a song, ultimately resulting in the band’s highest charting single.
Though Kansas enjoyed their fame in the 1970s they remain relatively active in the studio and the band’s evolution sounds quite evident throughout the decades. The 70s fully embraced on songs like “Two Cents Worth” and “Sparks of the Tempest” as the 80s come alive for “Play the Game Tonight” and “Fight Fire With Fire.” Kansas didn’t stray too far from their first 10 years of work on the setlist either offering just two off the new album which got denied a full tour because of the pandemic. However, “Moving Mountains” the other track played off The Absence of Presence which features righteous Williams’ guitar work belongs on a Top 10 Best Kansas Songs list so does “Memories Down the Line,” both songs Brislin helped pen.
Kansas finished the main set with “Paradox” the fourth selection from Point of No Return and “Miracles Out of Nowhere” off Leftoverture before encoring with one of their biggest fan and radio hits in “Carry On Wayward Son” which no doubt propelled Leftoverture to five times platinum and Kansas’ highest selling album.
Drumming has kept Ehart youthful and at 72 doesn’t miss a beat but Williams, also 72, with his eye patch and hunched over guitar-playing posture would fit right in with your local old timers breakfast club. However, his fingerwork on the fretboard rivals that of those half his age. Though Ragsdale plays guitar, his primary instrument in the violin was on full display much of the evening often delightfully tag teaming with Williams’ solos and Platt fully fills the shoes of longtime singer Steve Walsh who retired from the band in 2014 with a dominating vocal presence.
Kansas 2022 Classics Tour Setlist:
- Point of No Return
- What’s On My Mind
- Two cents Worth
- Icarus – Borne of Wings of Steel
- Can I Tell You
- The Wall
- People of the South Wind
- Hold On
- Memories Down the Line
- Dust in the Wind
- Play The Game Tonight
- Throwing Mountains
- Sparks of the Tempest
- Fight Fire With Fire
- Miracles Out of Nowhere
- Carry On Wayward Son