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Concert Reviews:
Kansas blends past, present glories at SoundBoard
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- As Kansas began its concert on Friday night, Oct. 28, at SoundBoard in the Motor City Casino Hotel, bassist Billy Greer told the crowd that it would be "unlike any Kansas show ever," as well as "the longest set ever played in the history of the band."

"So hold on to your Depends -- here we go!" he cracked.

So give Greer and his six bandmates credit for knowing its more pepper than salt crowd -- and what it wanted. Though there was new material to offer, the 24-song, two-and-a-half-hour show catered to the nostalgia of a band that's been around more than 45 years, and whose 70s heyday remains one of Classic Rock's most stalwart catalogs. And that immersion into the past is what made Friday just a little more special than other Kansas performances.

The centerpiece of the night was a 40th anniversary celebration of Kansas' "Leftoverture" album, a five-times platinum breakthrough the group played in its entirety. Boasting three new members, with fresh singer-keyboardist Ronnie Platt particularly adept at recreating original vocalist Steve Walsh's soulful wails, Kansas was again able to sound on stage almost exactly like it did on album, delivering clean recitations of its intricate, symphonic compositions.

The "Leftoverture" section, of course, opened with the hits "Carry On Wayward Son" and "The Walls," but for fans at SoundBoard the real perk was hearing deeper cuts such as the playful "Questions Of My Childhood," "Opus Insert" and the largely instrumental "Magnum Opus" -- which Platt singing the one lyric verse in the SoundBoard balcony -- in its entirety. New keyboardist David Manion filled the songs with every mid-70s vintage synthesizer stroke, while violinist David Ragsdale even played one of the guitar solos in "What's On My Mind," which the group spiced with an a capella final verse.

Kansas had even more to throw at its fans than "Leftoverture," too. The show opened with a five-song acoustic set highlighted by the band's five-part harmonies for "Hold On." It paired 2000's "Icarus II" with 1975's "Icarus" and offered spot-on performances of the tricky epics "Journey From Mariabronn" and "Lamplight Symphony" before using "Dust In The Wind" as bridge into a five-song sampling from "The Prelude Implicit," Kansas' first new album in 16 years-- which managed to hold the crowd's attention almost as well as the older material.

There was certainly a sense of rebirth, or at least revitalization, on Friday. Kansas felt re-energized by the new members and fresh material, and so did the palpable excitement from the fans. If the group plays it right, this could well be the "Prelude" to more good things to come.



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