Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kansas Carries on with Dignity at 40th Anniversary Concert

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Kansas Carries on with Dignity at 40th Anniversary Concert

Article excerpt

There's a Pittsburg in Kansas, but the Pittsburgh that adored Kansas is the one here in Pennsylvania.

This was where the band from Topeka, Kan., broke through, thanks in part to local FM stations and a historic show at the Stanley Theater where headliner Queen canceled and Kansas and Styx ended up ruling the night.

I wasn't there, but I can picture it.

It's six motley looking Midwestern ruffians with lots of hair and flannel overalls playing churning prog-laced boogie rock.

On Saturday night in the same building, now the more luxurious Benedum, the band returned for its one and only 40th anniversary fan appreciation concert.

Kansas plus 40 years (or in this case 38) looked much more like a PBS special, especially without wildman Robby Steinhardt in front and with the Three Rivers Orchestra dressing things up in the back.

Mr. Steinhardt has long since left the band and, sadly, a heart attack last week prevented him from taking part. In his place is the equally virtuosic David Ragsdale, looking very PBS New Age-y in silvery tux tails and coiffed hair.

Behind him, on keyboards, was singer Steve Walsh, who is now the spitting image of Henry Winkler. When returning original member Dave Hope reappeared, the bassist, now an Anglican priest, was wearing his collar.

So, needless to say, the Kansas look and vibe was night and day from '75, but it's the music that matters, of course, and on that note Kansas was typically on top of its game.

The first set came with songs suitable for full orchestral treatment, from the heavy-hitting "Song for America" and "Belexes" to the delicate "Dust in the Wind" and pastoral "Cheyenne Anthem," sung by bassist Billy Greer. He adds a lot to the vocal mix with Mr. Walsh, who is still forceful in the midrange and, not surprisingly, just a little strained at times at the top.

The special moments in the first set were the walk-on by guitarist-songwriter Kerry Livgren, who suffered a stroke in 2009, on the inspirational "Hold On," and Mr. Livgren and Mr. Hope helping to build "The Wall."

Before we go any further, it must be mentioned that Phil Ehart is still a beast on drums and Rich Williams is a gamer going it alone on electric and acoustic guitars. …

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