Only one show scheduled in the Netherlands, so I guess that tells us something about
the popularity of the band from Topeka (Kansas, USA).
The band are celebrating their 40th anniversary and several weeks ago
lead vocalist & keyboard player Steve Walsh announced his retirement
from one of the flagships of the American progressive scene.
The news barely went public or his replacement was announced:
the lead singer for Kansas-based band Shooting Star, Ronnie Platt,
will be handling the vocal duties for the band starting next fall.
A keyboard player will be announced shortly and the newly formed band is
said to be in the recording studio next year.
To be honest I don’t really think the biggest fair in Europe,
which was going on in Tilburg around the date of this show,
had anything to do with the number of fans who came to this concert.
Usually 013 can harvest some 2000 people but this evening the upper area was closed.
That means somewhere between 800 and 1200 fans came to see Steve Walsh for the last time.
For some reason prog-loving Dutchmen never embraced Kansas like they did Genesis,
Yes or Pink Floyd.
From the original line up guitarist Rich Williams, drummer Phil Ehart and
Steve Walsh were on stage. After the break in the eighties,
when Kansas reformed with Steve Morse, Dave Hope got replaced by Streets
bassist Billy Greer who played in Steve’s band in the early eighties.
Hope, I believe, is Anglican priest on staff at Immanuel Anglican Church,
a member congregation of the Anglican Mission in America, in Destin, Florida.
Kerry Livgren opted for a solo career and the band chose to continue as a five piece.
After Steinhardt’s retirement the talented David Ragdale returned to play the violin.
He had played with the band before (Live At The Whisky)
and does background vocals too and… plays guitar!
Although the band played several tracks from their 2000 album
Somewhere to Elsewhere on former occasions, as far as I know they only play
‘the old stuff’ these last years.
The show in 013 was no exception. All the songs came from the first five albums,
only one of the encores came from the Drastic Measures album (1983):
Fight Fire With Fire, a hit in many countries, but a song originally sung by John Elefante.
Although the evening turned out to be a glorious trip down memory lane,
the show went by like a smooth wind. Dave Ragdale was the only one trying to
get something going and although Steve came down and away from his keyboards on
selected occasions, it didn’t look as if the band were really trying to impress.
Williams, still getting thinner while Greer is growing bigger,
managed to have a smile on his face once and Greer didn’t seem to be eager to ‘rock’
with Ragdale. Obligatory is not the right word perhaps but only the ovation for
Steve Walsh was a moment for getting goose bumps.
Hearing Steve Walsh sing on this night, my impression was ‘I’ve heard (much) worse’
but his vocal abilities were nowhere near what he used to be able to achieve
in the seventies and eighties. His retirement comes as a relief for the man
himself and surely he made his imprints in rock music: undoubtedly one of the most
remarkable voices in symphonic rock!
So, being a huge fan of Kansas from the early seventies onwards,
it was great to hear some of the best tunes they ever recorded,
however Walsh’ keyboard playing was somewhat sloppy and Williams has
never been able to play the guitar like Livgren used to do.
In my opinion they do miss a second lead guitarist and though Williams
played beautifully and Ragdale plays guitar as well,
it doesn’t sound like Two For The Show. Greer’s vocal is also weakening a
bit and added the fact that the whole show lasted only 1 ½ hours,
it was all over much too quickly. Still the hundreds of fans were quite
enthusiastic and naturally wanted more, but the gesture Ehart made meant
something like ‘yeah sure you want more, but you can forget it’.
Without their main songwriters Livgren and Walsh and remembering Native Window’s
offering which was okay but hardly comparable to any Kansas album,
it remains to be seen whether the new additions to the band
can help to produce a strong album, doing justice to the reputation of this great band.
Maybe Platt and his new companion on keyboards can bring back some
of the old spirit the band used to have!
Mysteries Of Mayhem/Lamplight Symphony
Point Of Know Return
Song For America
Dust In The Wind
Miracles Out Of Nowhere
Down The Road
Portrait (He Knew)