On a muggy spring night, Sunday, April 7th, one of the original progressive rock bands, Kansas, brought a marathon set to the elegant Arlington theater in downtown Santa Barbara. Despite two of the original members, drummer Phil Ehart and Guitarist Rich Williams being close to their respective 70th birthdays, the group was able to perform a spectacular two and half hour non stop set.
The band began with a five-song acoustic set and eventually tore through songs from their catalog of fifteen albums released over five decades. The current tour features a second set of songs from the 1977 double platinum record Point of Know Return. Inexplicably the band did not take a break between the two extended sets, powering straight through to the end. In the age of ADD millennials, the idea of a two and a half hour set by a pop group is almost unthinkable. The feat was all the more remarkable considering that lead singer, Ronnie Platt quipped early in the set, “This is our fourth show in less than a week.” Platt has been the band’s lead singer and second keyboardist since 2014. The band also featured bassist and sometimes lead vocalist Billy Greer who has been with the band since 1985 and violinist extraordinaire David Ragsdale who has been with the group on and off since 1991. The current band is rounded out by newcomers, the second guitarist Zak Rizvi who has been with the band since 2016 and Tom Brislin on keyboards who just joined the band last year.
The show began right on time with the band sans drummer Ehart pulling up chairs to start the show with a short acoustic set featuring, “People Of The South Wind,” “Hope Once Again,” “Hold On,” “Refugee” and “Lonely Wind.” As the final song of the acoustic set came to a close Ehart took up his drum position instantly increasing the volume and energy level in the cavernous theater. The band then took up positions to launch a spectacular multimedia assault on the audience featuring explosive sound, beautiful lighting and tasteful backdrops representing various albums from the group’s portfolio. Songs came from decades of albums including, “Song For America,” “Summer” and “Miracles Out Of Nowhere.” The band played even deeper cuts rarely heard live including “Cold Grey Morning” from their 1995 album “Freaks Of Nature,” and played “Wheels” from the Kansas box set. Additional deep cuts in the opening set included the instrumental “Musicatto” from the Power album. Bassist Greer took over storytelling and lead vocals on “Taking In The View” from 1986’s “Power” the first Kansas album he recorded with the band.
Without a break the band then launched into the Point of No Return album in it’s entirety including the mega-hit “Dust In The Wind,” as well as epic jams from the recoding including “Portrait (He Knew),” “Closet Chronicles, “Sparks Of The Tempest,” “Hopelessly Human.” The set included some songs from the album that had never been previously performed live. After finally leaving the stage for a short break the band returned with an encore of their sing-along rock anthem “Carry On Wayward Son.” The entire show was a lesson for a younger generation of musicians of what a concert performance should be, a marathon jam of the band’s complete repertoire. The show was another stellar production of Nederlander concerts, the organization that continues to bring the best in entertainment to the Arlington theater, the Greek theater and California’s best outdoor venue the Vina Robles Amphitheater. For more info on upcoming shows: http://www.nederlanderconcerts.com/events/all