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Carry On Wayward Son
The celebration of the 30 year anniversary of Dust In The Wind and the album, "Two For The Show", started with a warm up band, Higher Ground. Higher Ground is a veteran 5-piece progressive rock band. Though the crowd was mostly unfamiliar with their music, the enthusiasm and talent of the band brought instant audience appreciation. The rhythm section rocked. The vocals soared. The combination of lead guitar and keyboard parts wove an interesting musical tapestry. Certainly, it was a good act for Kansas to follow.
When Kansas hit the stage, the depth and breadth of the sound filled every crevice as they launched into Magnum Opus. Phil Ehart's drum set not only had double bass drums, but each bass drum had it's own little baby bass drum. Together with Billy Greer on bass, it was a real solid sound with a quick and heavy beat. David Ragsdale came right out on the floor with his cordless violin sporting a crowd pleasing smile from ear-to-ear. Steve Walsh stood behind twin Kurzweil keyboards providing the progress in the progressive rock. Blend in some amazing guitar work from Richard Williams and the auditorium was void of any sound voids. The music took over.
Billy Greer was a pleasant surprise. Making eye contact with the audience, his rock and roll vigor was intoxicating. During the lyric, "The music is all for you", he reached out his arm and let the crowd know the music was all for them. Later in the show, he took time out between the songs to thank the crowd. It felt as though they were feeding each other. The effervescence of the band bubbled over onto the crowd causing a chain reaction of good vibes from the crowd back to the band.
Another treat was Richard Williams on guitars. This guy just doesn't look like he should be playing guitar. Not only that, he doesn't look like he should be able to make the thing sing. His performance was reminiscent of Martin Barre from Jethro Tull (another under rated virtuoso.) With an acoustic guitar held up on a stand, he would alter between towering over the acoustic sections and wailing on the electric pieces. It's quite possible Richard is the world's best one-eyed guitar player.
Early on in the set, they did something they rarely do by playing a coversong. Kansas claims "they are the world's worst cover band!" (from www.kansasband.com) However, they took the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" and turned it into a progressive masterpiece.
Something that really sets Kansas apart from other rock bands is the violin. Throughout the show, members of the audience could be heard saying the violin was their favorite part of the show. The way it looked, the way it felt and the way it sounded was very moving to the soul. But, there was one element of the concert that might have had even more of an impact -- Guitar Hero. Who would have ever thought that a video game could alter the face of rock music? It seems like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have brought several new generations of fans to songs they otherwise wouldn't have known. To look over and see a youngster playing Guitar Hero air-guitar as Richard Williams played real guitar on "Carry On Wayward Son" provided hope in the future of progressive rock.
Thank you, Kansas. Carry on!