Kansas and Divided By Three
Sunday 12th June, 2005
Shepherd's Bush Empire, London, UK
25 years is too long!
I have to admit that it has been a long time since I listened to the music of Kansas
and even longer since I last saw them play live, so it was with a fair amount of nostalgia
that I grabbed a ticket for this gig as soon as they went on sale in January of this year.
The original rumour was that they were to have been touring with Styx, though this
didn't materialize and both bands lined up gigs in almost the same week with similarly
steep ticket prices. On this occasion Styx lost out.
Support was provided by the 3-piece blues outfit Divided By Three. They managed to
sound surprisingly fresh and appeared to be very well received by the crowd as they warmed
up for the main event.
There was no grand overture to greet Kansas, nor any fancy stage-set in sight, but
as violinist Robbie Steinhardt made his way to the microphone centre-stage and counted the
band into the opening number, one just sensed that this was going to be a very special show.
There's no need for all the fancy trimmings, when you are a band who have been going for 30 years.
Belexes and Paradox made a fine start to the set and Robbie acknowledged
the warmth of the audience reaction as he bellowed "Good Evening and Welcome to Kansas",
to further huge cheers from the crowd in the comfortably full, but by no means sold-out venue.
While Steve Walsh's vocals on Opus Insert showed that sadly his voice is not quite
what it was, the playing and the backing vocals and harmonies were all absolutely top notch.
In particular the guitar playing of Rich Williams and the violin playing of Robbie took the
limelight, but mention should also be made of the rhythm section of Phil Ehart and Billy Greer
who were no less impressive. "Who said that you can't rock at 55", declared Robbie
after a particularly vigorous rendition of Miracles out of Nowhere.
More cheers greeted the opening chords and cries of "sail On" which introduced Icarus -
Borne on the Wings of Steel and the classic tunes followed one after another. It was
particularly pleasing to these ears to hear Magnum Opus (the first song to be written
by all six of us, as Robbie informed us) and then Song For America,
after which Robbie entertained us with some of his recollections of the last time that
the band had played in London (in 1980, supporting Queen). The band had rehearsed at
The Rainbow (now sadly closed) and it had rained ... so no change there then!
Robbie was very keen to emphasize that the band is still a vital entity, stressing that
they still play 100 shows a year and encouraging the audience to check out the band's
website. Then after the usual band introductions, thy chose to continue with a rendition
of J.J. Cale's Bringing it back, which gave all the members of the band an
opportunity to shine and proved that they can still rock when they want to. At this point,
Robbie then declared that the band had "reached the point of Know Return" as they moved
into one of their most well known songs. The rendition was sensational and in comparison
to the rather disappointing Portrait (He Knew) would have made for a much better
and more rousing end to the main set.
By this point, the band had only been on stage for a mere 75 minutes and, as almost
everyone in the hall must have been aware, there was a still at least a couple of very
famous songs that they hadn't yet performed. So it was no great surprise that they did
return and deliver what a lot of people had been waiting for. Dust in the Wind
and Carry On my Wayward Son might not be the band's most progressive of numbers,
but they are songs to which everyone in the audience knew the words and as Steve Walsh
leapt around the stage during Dust in the Wind, just about everyone in the building
joined in to sing the chorus. Carry On was even more climactic as the audience
sang along even more lustily than before.
All in all, a fine, if not particularly long show which proved to the English
audience that the band can still deliver live. Hopefully they won't have to wait
another 25 years to see the band again on an English stage.
Miracles out of Nowhere
Icarus - Borne on the Wings of Steel
Song For America
Bringing It Back (Inc:Down The Road & Glimpse Of Home)
Point of Know Return
Portrait (He Knew)
Dust in The Wind
Carry on Wayward Son