Kansas in Raleigh, North Carolina, Oct. 22, 2011
Eclectic Prog Team
Joined: December 30 2007
Location: Raeford, NC
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Topic: Kansas in Raleigh, North Carolina, Oct. 22, 2011
Posted: October 23 2011 at 00:33
Following a long day swimming in a river of humanity, stuffed in a gauntlet of food vendors (A steak and cheese should have actual steak and cheese, especially for $7) and barkers (No, I would not like your to guess my weight, and I'll thank you to keep your witticisms about it to yourself), watching the children ride rides and trying to remember what was so thrilling about a train of cars that traveled about 3mph around a rickety track (Rule #7, I kid you not, read, "Please make sure the operator is paying attention to the ride at all times" ), and observing the prize-winning steers (hard to think of them as winners since Harris-Teeter bought most of them), my family and I settled into Dorton Arena to watch my favorite ensemble perform.
There we were, smelling a classy fusion of funnel cake and livestock. Prior to the show, I spoke with some older guys about the band we came to see, and got one of them thrilled about the album he hadn't heard about, Somewhere to Elsewhere. The excitement was high among those who knew what to expect. The young rockers there just seemed happy to be attending a concert that featured neither Kellie Pickler nor Dionne Warwick. Our seats were great- about 50 yards from the stage and at a 45 degree angle.
After a well-performed national anthem, the room darkened, and...well, I'll get to that. My son, whom we believe to suffer from some degree of autism (appropriate, since Kansas is raising money for Autism Speaks), could not handle the darkness mixed with the loud sounds and colorful lights. And given the introduction the band played, I could see why it would be terrifying to a child. Abigail, who is younger, quite enjoyed the music, but after two songs, poor Simon couldn't take anymore (or his mother's compassion for him couldn't), so we brought him out and Tasha sat with the kids while I reluctantly finished watching the show- to me, attending a concert solo is worse than eating alone. And I had forgotten to get the camera from her- hence, no pictures of this one from me.
As for the concert as a whole, it was very good- not spectacular. While Kansas sound tighter than I recall them being in 2000, there were just some odd moments that kept interrupting the flow. Also, the arena's reverberation made the band sound muffled and louder than they probably were.
David Ragsdale was as gregarious a performer as ever, visiting each of his companions multiple times and keeping the energy high. His violin, while perhaps a tad loud, was a highlight of the show, adding a virtuosic, rich sweetness to the heavy rock music the other guys were hammering out. On the contrary, Rich Williams remained his aloof, concentrated self, giving a solid performance, although he seemed visibly upset with himself a couple of times during brief guitar solo bits. Poor Billy Greer, for all his effort as MC and a fine vocalist, had technical problems during the show- it appeared his bass was not tuned properly, and sometimes there was either way too much of it or almost none at all, and a tech had to come out in the middle of one of the songs to assist- not sure it helped. Save a few unfortunate moments, Steve Walsh delivered a solid performance, although I wish his keyboards were more audible, especially during his occasional organ solos. The star of the night's show, however, was unquestionably Phil Ehart; I was almost as pleased to just watch him perform as I was to see the whole band. He gave nearly each piece new vitality and sometimes a slightly new arrangement with his drumming. I knew his timing was about perfect- I had no idea how creative he could be, even with 35-year-old material!
If I've not bored you yet, here's the set list and my observations for each song:
"Howling at the Moon" (excerpt from "Magnum Opus") David Ragsdale led the band in a chilling and dark introduction before launching into a faithful rendition of this opening part from "Magnum Opus." Yes, they howled (further frightening my poor boy!).
"Belexes" Leading in with their introduction from Device Voice Drum, the band rocked this one out loud and proud- no complaints, and Walsh sounded pretty good with Greer.
"Point of Know Return" The band added nothing particularly new to this favorite (as they did on Live at the Whiskey), but that's okay- a solid rendition of a fan favorite to reel in those who may not have been familiar with the previous tune.
"Song for America" Another admirable, yet predictable version- the closure was stunning though, as Ragsdale provided a wonderful violin performance.
"On the Other Side" I'm glad the band began doing this live- they sound incredible playing it with the heavier sound they have now. Even though Greer announced the song, the band gave it a different introduction before blasting into the song proper. Walsh was wise to restrain himself vocally on this one (especially that third chorus), and overall it sounded great.
"Hold On" Strange noises and stormy sound effects made me think the band was going to do "Rainmaker" from In the Spirit of Things, but the introduction ended abruptly, and Kansas played a stellar version of this one, especially since they added an inspiring, symphonic prog interlude after the guitar solo.
"Dust in the Wind" Easily one of the best performances of this song as I've ever witnessed. Williams' six-string and Greer's twelve sounded crisp and yet elegant. Perhaps it was only a coincidence, or perhaps it was just Ragsdale's style, but I do believe I heard nods to "Peaceful and Warm" during that closing violin solo...
"The Wall" Another excellent, mostly faithful rendition. Williams' tone ranks as one of my favorites now, and while he's played better solos on this song, he still delivered.
"Miracles Out of Nowhere" One of my favorites, but I was initially disappointed. The band sounded empty here- perhaps a combination of Greer's technical issues and the fact that during the verses for some reason, Walsh wasn't playing anything. So the sound lacked depth in the beginning. I enjoy seeing "Miracles Out of Nowhere" live because there is more than one false ending, and the crowd cheers, most of them probably thinking it's over, and then the band continues. Tonight, the band held out those dramatic pauses, even adding additional sound effects to heighten the suspense. Ehart and Williams on the conclusion just plain killed it.
"Icarus- Borne on Wings of Steel" This favorite had an excellent beginning and an excellent conclusion, but wow, the instrumental middle section started off rather bad. Just as the instrumental bit is supposed to pick and get rolling, fast and full, the sound kind of peters off again, leaving just some organ, violin, and drums, which made for an awkward transition into the heaviest moment of the song.
"Down the Road" Hearing this live was a surprise for me, and hearing Greer singing it made it even more so. He didn't have the grittiness of Steinhardt to pull it off the way it should be done, but he didn't disappoint either. Walsh doublefisted on this one- a harmonica in one hand and his keys in the other.
"Portrait (He Knew)" "Down the Road" segued into this song much as "The Spider" does on Point of Know Return. Walsh began with some business on keyboard- either he was trying to let the song build, or he forgot the chords, or he was just doing something different- whatever it was, it was odd and I don't think it worked. That said, the song itself was performed very well, again with Ehart and Ragsdale providing the steam.
By this point, the band said goodnight and many of the folks started to exit the arena- surely they know the band isn't done. The band left the stage, but from my vantage point, I noticed that Steve Walsh merely sat down behind his keyboards, like he was playing hide and seek. But the faithful keep cheering, the band came back to play the song they forgot to do, and Walsh popped up like a jack-in-the-box.
"Fight Fire With Fire" Greer dedicated this one of the US Armed Forces- a nice touch given that this region of NC is populated heavily with military families. This performance, despite the song being from an unpopular era of Kansas, was exceptional- Ehart and Williams (the former changing up the drum pattern slightly, the latter getting to fry his guitar neck a bit) with Ragsdale's violin showed the song's true potential.
"Carry On Wayward Son" Unfortunately, it was not the 50-year-old mamas shaking their stuff to this radio hit and concert finale that was the lowest point of the show- it was the performance itself. Some of it was technical, some of it was apparent boredom, and some of it was...erm...accidental. First, Greer's bass inexplicably vanished during the verses, as did Williams' acoustic guitar. So the verses consisted of delicate piano, Ragsdale's thin electric guitar tone popping in now and again, and Ehart pounding away- really uncomfortable. Second, the band played this tune as one might expect a band to play a song they've been doing every concert of their lives for decades- it's just a song that has to be done, and since it's the last show, the guys are probably both bored and tired. However, the biggest kick came when Steve tried to grab the microphone during the bridge. He somehow unplugged a cable leading to his mic. He'd already ran halfway to meet his bandmates to sing the part, and he had to run back to plug back in. Half the vocals were missing during the climax of the song.
Seeing live music is not something I do often, but I sure am glad I went tonight. It was a treat to see my favorite band again- a group of people that inspired me to start writing music.
It's very late for me, and I'm supposed to cut grass tomorrow, go to church, and cook lunch for my family... Good night friends.
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Joined: April 19 2009
Location: At the Farms
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: October 23 2011 at 00:41|
Sounds like a heck of a concert, Rob, I'm gonna have to catch these guys when they're near me again sometime. They seem to have alot of concerts within the vicinity.
Prog Folk Researcher
Joined: August 17 2005
Location: United States
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|Post Options Quote Reply Posted: October 23 2011 at 09:04|
Good review, gives a nice visual of what the evening was like.
Ragsdale's violin was too loud at times during the Sioux Falls concert as well, but for the most part he continues to breathe new life into a band that sorely needs some.
I saw a lot of the same technical problems at outdoor shows in Wichita Kansas, Marshall Minnesota and Sioux Falls South Dakota a few years ago too. And I noticed the band has several of the same road crew now that they had then which makes me wonder why they can't seem to get things right for a show given they appear to work together quite a bit.
Anyway thanks for the
"When you think that you lost everything, you find out you can always lose a little more..."
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