Tag Archives: classic rock

Rockin’ the City of Angels: What?

Click here to buy Rockin’ the City of Angels, the new book now available at Amazon.com

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Titled Rockin’ the City of Angels, the book was a 2 year labor of love for this long time rock fanatic. I described it on the back cover in this way:

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STROBE FLASHES PIERCE THE DARK STAGE to reveal a NYC street punk as he faces the other half of his fractured self. A father’s WWII fighter plane crashes into a wall, temporarily slowing its ascent around his son’s troubled heart. A fiend clad in a white tuxedo steps out from the frame of a graveyard scene onto a haunted stage welcoming all to his many nightmares. A woman, weapon drawn, tells the story of James and his very cold gun. The top drummer from the top 70s rock band in the world pounds out the opening beat that tells us it’s been a long time since he rock ‘n’ rolled . . . a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely lonely time.

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David Bowie photo (c) Neil Zlowzower / Atlas Icons

THESE IMAGES ARE SEARED into my memory from the rock concerts I witnessed in Los Angeles, the “City of Angels” in the 1970s, a time when rock bands were making expansive concept records with sweeping themes. Rock albums at the time promised “theater of the mind,” and their creators were inspired to mount elaborate stage shows that brought these dreams to life. These artists used every available piece of stagecraft—lights, projections, backdrops, props, and costumes—to create awesome spectacles for arenas packed with adoring fans— fans like you and me.

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This book celebrates more than thirty of these incredible performances including key tours by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Heart, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Who and Yes. We’ll share memories of those legendary concerts and my reviews of the best video documents of the era, each band illuminated by a hand-picked collection of brilliant images—some never-before seen—by the best photo- journalists of that time including Richard E. Aaron, Jorgen Angel, Fin Costello, Armando Gallo, Neal Preston, Jim Summaria, Lisa Tanner and Neil Zlowzower along with many others.

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Who photo (c) Neal Preston

This coffee-table book is nearly the size of an LP album cover, 396 pages, over 500 images, written by Douglas Harr, designed by Tilman Reitzle. Forword by Armando Gallo.

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The bands, order by category, then the date of their key performance in L.A.

Bad Company Lives Live!

badcompanylive_cover_72dpiBad Company is one of the most important rock bands of the 1970s. They topped a hard rock core with silky smooth yet gritty production values, hooks galore, and pedigree in each musician. They are a band I had to, regrettably leave out of my upcoming book Rockin’ the City of Angels. The omission is due in large part to a few issues – most importantly that the book is a celebration of the outstanding concerts of the ‘70s including classic rock and prog bands, and I did not get to see them in concert until recently. I could not find any footage nor official live albums of the band during that decade. That last excuse has just been remedied with the release of an outstanding double-CD set of Bad Company Live in concert 1977 and 1979.

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The release is exceptional in every important way. The first set, recorded in 1977 at The Summit, Houston Texas, May 23, 1977 captures the band tearing through 15 tracks over 76 minutes, starting off with the title track from that year’s album Burnin’ Sky (1977) and ending with the mega-hit “Feel Like Makin’ Love.” Label mates Led Zeppelin played the same venue just two days earlier, and this show similarly brims with crackling intensity. The second set is just two minutes longer with the same number tracks, taken from the Empire Pool, Wembley Arena in London March 9, 1979, where they did three shows to 12,000 fans each night, just a week before the release of Desolation Angels (1979) considered by most to be their last strong album. The set list begins with the title track of their debut, Bad Company (1974), and ends with another hit “Can’t Get Enough.” In between quite a number of the “then new” tracks are included, most notably “Gone, Gone, Gone” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy.” In addition a cover of the Hendrix breakout hit “Hey Joe” was taken from the Capital Center, Washington DC, also in ’79.

Overall, the sets are edited so that there are only two tunes repeated between the 1977 to 1979 shows – just “Shooting Star” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love” appear on both discs, smartly leaving buyers with a generous helping of 28 songs performed live. Most importantly, these sets sound fantastic. There are no overdubs made to either show, a fact noted on the promo sticker. Fans of the band know how unnecessary sonic tinkering would have been, as the original four-piece Bad Company lineup was known as a non-nonsense powerhouse in concert. My book designer Tilman Reitzle saw the show in ’79 and told me the band was the most rehearsed, professional group he had ever seen, able to be precise while still keeping the energy and excitement at the highest level. Between-song chatter was kept to a minimum, and you can now hear the remarkable economy and precision of their delivery on this set. It comes from the rock-steady beat of drummer Simon Kirke (ex-Free), to the baddest fretless bass from Boz Burrell (coming off a stint with King Crimson), amped guitar riffs from Mick Ralphs (ex-Mott The Hoople), and pitch perfect vocals from Paul Rogers (also ex-Free), certainly one of the genre’s most talented, dependable vocalists, not to mention his capable chops on piano and guitar, which helped to round out the band’s sound.

The booklet, authored by David Clayton is informative, if a bit shy on photos of the guys on stage and off. Having said that, the shots that are included, by Brannon Tommey, Bruce Kessler, Alan Perry, and Aubrey Powell are fantastic. There are also snaps of memorabilia – mostly ads for the shows, tickets and backstage passes. The booklet includes a background with lots of information about their progress in studio and the extensive, sometimes punishing touring schedule. Clayton puzzles as to how these tapes remained untouched in the vault for 40 years, something we can all agree on. He also provides this, a favorite quote about the band: “guys wanted to be them and girls wanted to be with them.”

It’s said that manager Peter Grant’s belief that live audio and film recordings took away from the impetus to see his bands live contributed to the unavailability of these artifacts from Bad Company. Grant also managed Led Zeppelin who released limited and rather poor live audio and filmed material during the decade, something that has also been rectified in years since. Fans can now rejoice that at least on the audio front this has been corrected with this superb new CD release. Add it to your collection, and hang on for video that hopefully one day will follow…

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Paul Rogers, still rockin’ today

p.s.

Best videos I’ve located from the 1970s are almost exclusively from television appearances:

Feel Like Makin’ Love:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeZqjZ_kvLY

Can’t Get Enough:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p9mzYB–uI

 

 

Electric Light Orchestra’s Summer Bash

elo2016_bow_144dpiElectric Light Orchestra (ELO) was an enduring British band that deftly combined orchestral instrumentation and infectious pop rock. Founder Jeff Lynne was principal writer and producer, leading the band through several incarnations, all influenced by The Beatles, Chuck Berry and other rock pioneers. From 1972 to 1986 ELO racked up more than a dozen top 20 songs on UK and US charts. Now billed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO they have been back out on the road with Lynne up front, long time band member and arranger Richard Tandy on keyboards and a crack group of musicians and vocalists, including Lynne’s daughter, as backup.

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Seeing the new ensemble September 10, 2016, on the second of three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl was like stepping back in time, as Lynne, band, and orchestra faithfully replicated every note of the original ELO compositions, along with a few newer tracks from Lynne’s most recent album. At around 80 minutes, incredibly, nearly every track on the set list was originally a hit or at least massively popular FM radio staple for ELO, including “Evil Woman,” “All Over the World,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “Turn to Stone” and on through seventeen songs, ending inevitably with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which as one would expect, highlighted the immense contribution of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra let by conductor Thomas Wilkins while fireworks lit the night sky. Highlights for this fan included “Mr. Blue Sky” during which original Tandy mouthed the refrain on an original or sound-alike vocorder, and “Wild West Hero,” a suite that always showed off their more creative side.

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Lynne has never been much of an extrovert onstage. Going right back to the band’s beginnings he stands in place, letting the music and his clear vocals communicate his message, saying almost nothing between tracks save for brief salutations. In fact, original band members who are no longer part of the group, including long time partner Roy Wood, along with violin and cello players were the most physical performers, accentuating the music back in the day. Today a lot of the expression falls to always-upbeat bass guru Lee Pomeroy and a couple of the other current players who are inclined. To augment this, the staging has always been and continues to be spectacular. The band made extensive use of unique lighting including then-emerging laser lights, and they continue in this tradition today. The stage at the Bowl, with its semi-oval canopy, lighting rig, front projections and fireworks, as seen recently when Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour played there, offer an opportunity to masterfully present these impressive lighting and visuals. It’s an entertainment on its own-threatening to but not rendering music as accompaniment to the spectacle. Instead, Lynne’s ELO with orchestra gave us a perfect show, leaving the audience enthralled long after the last notes faded.

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For this short tour, Lynne scheduled a mere five nights in Los Angeles and New York. They play Wembley in London next year – the only scheduled appearance I see for now. In my view, this would be worth a trip over the pond or for Brits, into crowded London for an evening of strange magic!

 

Alice Dies Again…

Wakeman2016Cooper_StoneFreeAd_72dpiQuite a weekend just passed at the O2 Arena, London. The Stone Free festival featured a series of bands over two days, June 18th and 19th, 2016 headlined by American rock legend Alice Cooper on day one then on day two Britain’s treasure, Rick Wakeman. It was both a complementary and divergent pairing, Alice heading a list of bands Saturday who are principally heavy rock ‘n’ rollers, such as The Darkness and Apocalyptica, and Wakeman with various progressive rock bands on Sunday including among others Steve Hackett and Marillion. I’ve seen this type of pairing before in Britain, last year’s Ramblin’ Man festival paired The Scorpions opposite Camel, and it’s entertaining just to walk around and people-watch. It’s easy to guess who came to see which bands as the rockers tend to favor adornment of leather, skulls, and crosses, and the proggers, well, they tend to arrive in carefully selected t-shirts commemorating Yes, Genesis, ELP, and so on. I started the weekend by picking up a Wakeman t-shirt so as to immediately declare my allegiance.

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Having said that, I was also very excited to see Alice Cooper on “Classic Rock” day, as it was to be my first time seeing him after all the years I’ve spent in concert halls. For anyone not familiar with the history, Alice Cooper shows have featured dancing skeletons, attacking spiders, an 8-foot-tall Cyclops, broken baby dolls, and fully functioning guillotines all fronted by Alice’s vaudevillian protagonist backed by a rock ‘n roll band that Cooper_DVDCover_3x4_72dpiwould influence rock and metal upstarts for decades. In 1974, after racking up seven albums and countless concert performances, the original ban split. Singer Vincent Furnier legally adopted the name Alice Cooper, and embarked on a long and fruitful solo career. His first album and tour spawned the movie Welcome To My Nightmare that screened in 1975 at my local movie palace. I took to this film immediately, reveling in the clever stagecraft that included dancers appearing to step in and out of a movie.

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Now more than 40 years on, and many solo album releases later, Alice still rocks — the concert was fantastic. As you might guess, these shows are quite well rehearsed now, a bit less anarchy on stage, replaced by more carefully crafted choreography, better lighting and effects. Yet the feeling of spontaneity and naughtiness remains, still aided with stage antics, props and costumes, continuing Alice’s long string of compelling rock ‘n’ roll Grand-Guignol, attended by the faithful and curious alike. The set list was packed with classics, beginning with “The Black Widow,” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” He included several hit singles ending with “School’s Out” and the encore “Elected.” Late in the set list, Alice covered four songs by departed rockers, revealing a tombstone flag for each as he honored Keith Moon (“Pinball Wizard”), Jimi Hendrix (“Fire”), David Bowie (“Suffragette City”) and Lemmy (“Ace of Spades”). Alice’s voice sounded great — he’s kept the growl, but can still deliver a ballad like “Only Women Bleed.” Of all the fine musicians on stage, Nita Strauss stood out for her demonstrative searing leads on guitar. But this show has been and remains about the performance, about making a rock concert interesting by investing the proceedings with theatrics, in this case celebrating all things macabre. And, as is tradition, Alice died once more on the guillotine, guilty as always.

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p.s. oh yeah, and time to pick up some leather, skulls and crosses to balance my allegiences!

 

Led Zeppelin’s Presence

Led Zeppelin_DVD_Shot_72dpiLed Zeppelin, the mightiest rock band of the 1970’s, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. For one thing, guitarist Jimmy Page just recently finished the mammoth task of remastering and re-releasing deluxe versions of every Led Zeppelin album, each with an extra disc of demos and outtakes from the studio sessions. While it would have been nice to have that second disc full of live material from each album’s associated tour, the packages have been stellar with improved sound, informative essays, and captivating photos by band photographer Neal Preston and others. Some of the demos and alternate takes are of interest – two come immediately to mind, a gorgeous version of “The Rain Song” from Houses of the Holy and an unbelievably aggressive barnstorming early take on “Trampled Under Foot” from Physical Graffiti called “Brandy and Coke.”

Led Zeppelin_PresenceCover_72dpiThe last one of these remasters I purchased was the epic Zeppelin album, Presence, originally released way back in 1976. The record is packed with arguably the best guitar riffs and leads of Page’s long career. It starts with the loose but driven opener “Achilles Last Stand,” a long piece that sounds spontaneous and free, played with the abandon of a train that’s about to come off the tracks, fueled by some of drummer John Bonham’s most amazing fills on record. The highlight for this patron was the scorching, progressive rocker “For Your Life” during which Page makes impressive use of his Stratocaster’s tremolo arm, and Robert Plant’s vocals match ascending chord structures with a power that sounds as if he is, in fact, fighting for his own life. The rest of the album is similarly impressive, a lesson in rock perfection from each of the four artists, Page/Plant/Jones/Bonham. This is the album and tour I will be covering in my book next year.

Led Zeppelin_OGWTWhile researching the book project, I’ve been reflecting on the concert films of the 1970’s, some of which will be explored in the text. There weren’t many proper concert films released to theaters back in that decade, in fact besides getting to the concerts themselves, there were more chances at that time to see our favorite bands on television specials, such as Don Krishner’s Rock Concert and The Midnight Special in the states, The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops in the U.K., and Musikladen in Germany. The only concert films I recall hitting the cinemas were as follows: Yessongs for Yes, Trick of the Tail/White Rock for Genesis/Wakeman, Welcome to my Nightmare for Alice Cooper, and The Song Remains the Same for Zeppelin. There were more, what do you recall?

I saw The Song Remains the Same at my local theater upon it’s release, and frankly was, and have remained, a bit let down by the movie. Professionally filmed at the famous Madison Square Gardens in 1973, the picture is crisp and colorful. It’s the performance that I feel lacks something, not a monumental miss, just not what I believe were some of their best nights, despite being a milestone moment for the band. For years, I regretted not being able to catch Zep live in Los Angeles before Bonham’s untimely passing, and pined for a better chance to see what rabid fans proclaimed were the most incredible live performances of the era.

Led Zeppelin_DVD_Cover_72dpiFinally in 2003 all debate as to the power and majesty of the mighty Zeppelin in concert were put to rest, with the release of their self-titled Led Zeppelin DVD. It’s a stunning treasure chest containing more than 5 hours of interviews, televised clips and 35mm films capturing the band live throughout their career. First up, there are rare black and white clips of the group as they debuted on Danish television, along with two additional early performances. Viewers are then treated to a pristine footage from the tour supporting Led Zeppelin II in 1970 at the Royal Albert Hall in London, shot using two 16mm cameras. The next disc begins with a pastiche of bootleg videos for “The Immigrant Song,” followed by additional footage of the 1973 Madison Square Garden concert, clips that are also now available on the expanded DVD version of The Song Remains the Same. A favorite from this added footage is “Misty Mountain Hop,” one of Zep’s most buoyant songs, often played consummately by the longtime Zep fans Heart in years since.

The real gem of this set is footage of the band at Earls Court in London supporting Physical Graffiti in 1975, including a rare look at the group’s acoustic set featuring “That’s The Way” from the third album. Best yet is what must be their most spectacular moment, a perfect, emotionally draining rendition of the bluesy lament “In My Time of Dying” followed by a cranked-up, frenetic version of “Trampled Under Foot” featuring Jones’ funky clavichord riffs. Between these two Physical Graffiti classics, we are able to witness first-rate performances from each band member. As if all this wasn’t enough, the collection ends with seven tracks from an intense outdoor performance at Knebworth in 1979, their last before Bonham’s death and the group’s subsequent split. That night, the band played the two tracks they had been doing from Presence after it’s release, “Achilles Last Stand,” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” along with their undisputed Physical Graffiti classic “Kashmir.” Instead of finding the band on the decline, this stands as absolute evidence of their continued relevance.

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While bootleg audio and video of Led Zeppelin performing live abound, including notably some of these performances in their entirety, I prefer to support artists by collecting official releases on media, and in this case, there were painstaking efforts to clean up previously unseen footage by Page and team. Until additional film is released, this two-disc collection is the best footage available of this seminal band, and comes highly recommended.

Led Zeppelin DVD Track-list:

Disc 1

Communication Breakdown / Dazed and Confused / We’re Gonna Groove / I Can’t Quit You Baby / Dazed And Confused / White Summer / What Is And What Should Never Be / How Many More Times / Moby Dick / Whole Lotta Love / Communication Breakdown / C’mon Everybody / Something Else / Bring It On Home

Disc 2

Immigrant Song / Black Dog / Misty Mountain Hop / Since I’ve Been Loving You / The Ocean / Going To California / That’s The Way / Bron-Y-Aur Stomp / In My Time Of Dying / Trampled Underfoot / Stairway To Heaven / Rock And Roll / Nobody’s Fault But Mine / Sick Again / Achilles Last Stand / In The Evening / Kashmir / Whole Lotta Love

Heart Warms The Masonic

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Heart at the Masonic Auditorium

Heart is an American hard rock/folk band that was founded in 1974, uniting musicians that had previously been a part of various groups in the U.S. and Canada. After one more personnel change – a new drummer, the Heart lineup gelled and released their accomplished debut album Dreamboat Annie, distributed in the states in 1976. From that point until the end of the decade, the Heart lineup included sisters Ann Wilson (lead vocals, flute, violin) and Nancy Wilson (vocals, guitars, mandolin), both of whom wrote the music and also played keyboards, along with Roger Fisher (lead guitars), Howard Leese (keyboards), Steve Fossen (bass) and Michael Derosier (drums). Despite a troubled second album, which was properly released as Magazine (1978) after a change of labels, the band produced excellent follow-ups Little Queen (1977) and Dog and Butterfly (1978). This is the core period for Heart’s music, brimming with confidence, Zeppelin-esque riffs, real Moog synth, and tight backbeat. The group experienced success in the early 1980’s then revivals later that decade, again in the 1990’s and through to today.

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Ann Wilson
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Nancy Wilson

Heart has been performing in the San Francisco bay area almost every summer season at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. This year, they made a rare appearance in the city at the newly remodeled Masonic Auditorium on September 17, 2015. The venue, known for excellent acoustics, now has the floor arranged in three tiers as general admission standing room only, which allowed the crowd in this instance to rock out to the band’s hits from their long career. Tracks included fan favorites like the opener “Kick It Out”, along with “Straight On”, “Crazy On You”, “Even It Up” and set closer “Barracuda”. The band has always been fond of playing covers, and this night was no exception, as Nancy introduced a beautiful rendition of Elton John’s “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”, and a rocking version of “The Witch” by The Sonics. The sister’s share a well-known love of Led Zeppelin; the entire encore was made of of Zep tunes “Immigrant Song” (yes, chills!), “No Quarter” and “Misty Mountain Hop”.

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This was an excellent night for rock ‘n roll, which saw Ann in near perfect voice, so key to this band hitting its stride in concert. Nancy lent rich lead vocals on a couple of her tracks, accented by great stage moves timed to clever riffs on acoustic and electric guitars. New keyboard player Chris Joyner and bass from Dan Rothchild along with Ben Smith, their drummer since 2003 filled out their sound. Of particular note, lead guitarist Craig Bartock, with the band since 2004, nailed crisp lead riffs and solos that harken back to the original studio recordings. All in all a great night – highly recommended.

Heart on Film

Heart_KWSU_VideoI’ve been researching all the available films of bands from the 1970’s and artists of the New Wave ‘80’s. In the case of Heart, there are several clips from their core period, culled from performances on Midnight Special, Saturday Night Live, and others, but as yet I’ve not located a feature length film of the band performing live on stage during the 70’s. However, there is one brilliant 55-minute film of the band playing live in front of an enthusiastic studio audience at KWSU (Washington State University, Pullman) just after the completion of their first album. The film, titled The Second Ending, shot in 4:3 aspect ratio, was originally broadcast on April 9, 1976 on a local PBS station. It features the band playing nearly every track from their debut, Dreamboat Annie, along with two from their as-yet unreleased second, Magazine. The set opens with an energetic instrumental, which features Ann playing a rocking lead on flute that must have given Ian Anderson pause. Credits roll over audio of the band performing a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “The Rover” taped at an earlier live Heart_StrangeEuphoria_BoxSet_Coverdate. The show was produced and directed by the late Michael J. Cotsones. Though circulated among collectors and online video sites, it was finally released on DVD in 2012 as part of Heart’s Strange Euphoria box set. The show perfectly captures this band in their prime, just as they began their ascent to classic rock stardom. Also, highly recommended!

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Ben Smith
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Dan Rothchild and Craig Bartock,

 

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Chris Joyner

Kansas Return to Form

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The band Kansas turned 40 last year, and to commemorate the event, they reunited to film a new documentary “Miracles Out of Nowhere” – about the only time they had all been in the same their first personnel change, when Steve Walsh split following the Audio-Visions album and tour. The group had enjoyed a solid unchanging lineup from their inception in 1973 until 1981, but since that time there has been a dozen incarnations with original members coming and going. The latest change came just after the documentary was filmed last year, when Steve Walsh, the powerful original vocalist, composer, organ and keys player retired, leaving the ongoing band with two just original members, Phil Ehart (drums) and Richard Williams (guitars). Steve was an amazing vocalist, keys player and force within Kansas, but it became clear more recently that his once soaring voice had diminished to an extent, and since his original vocal leads were so challenging, the live shows suffered a bit in the final year. Nonetheless, his departure was timed just right, coming after a long 40-year career. Whether or not he returns to the studio or stage, his legacy of fine compositions and performances will stand forever as important contributions to classic rock music.

Phil Ehart

Kansas is now touring again, populated with the two original members Ehart and Williams and new members that have joined over many years. Original member Dave Hope (bass) left in 1983 and Billy Greer has played bass with the band since then. Robby Steinhardt (violin, vocals) retired almost 10 years ago in 2006 and David Ragsdale has been their violin player since that time, with Greer covering Steinhart’s vocal parts. Principal composer Kerry Livgren (guitars, keys) was in and out of the band until his final KansasArticleWilliams2015departure in 2000, and since then both Williams and Ragsdale cover his guitar parts. After Walsh’s retirement last year, the remaining players hired Ronnie Platt primarily to cover his vocal parts, along with some keys, and David Manion to supply primary keyboard parts and add some background vocals. If all that seems like a lot to take in, a complete timeline is available online! The good news is, as seen last Saturday night September 12, 2015 in Valencia California, Kansas is definitely back and ready to roll.

While often being considered a progressive or classical rock band, Kansas was inspired by American R&B, soul and Motown, rather than the bands of the British invasion. Ehart said, “When we got together we did not bust into some Yes song, we were playing the Four Tops, Otis Redding, The Temptations.” The Livgren/Walsh writing team made ample use of shifting meters, keys, and sometimes jagged progressive song structures to build their compositions. As they developed their own sound, the combination of Kerry’s writing and playing plus Steve’s soulful, powerhouse voice and Robbie’s violin along with his vocal leads and harmonies made the combination that sparked the emergence of Kansas. The band built a fan base by touring incessantly playing nearly 250 shows in a year to support the first three albums, Kansas (1974), Song For America (1975), and Masque (1975), none of which spawned any hits. Kansas then followed these up with two sextuple-platinum albums, Leftoverture (1976) and Point of Know Return (1977). A double-live album taken from these tours, called Two For The Show followed, capturing the band at their absolute peak. Studio albums Monolith (1979) and Audio-Visions (1980) came after this, ending the unbroken string of releases from the original lineup.

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I first saw Kansas play live at the Santa Monica Civic auditorium near the end of the Leftoverture tour, on January 14th, 1977. The show was spectacular in every way – the band was on fire, playing faithful renditions of all their most complex compositions with almost impossible precision. All the lighting and staging added to the experience – as an example, in one memorable moment ending their set, near the coda of “Cheyenne Anthem” Steinhardt sang the final verse lit only by a tight spotlight:

Soon these days shall pass away, for our freedom we must pay
All our words and deeds are carried on the wind,
In the ground our bodies lay, here we’ll stay…

At that point, the instrumental coda crashed in and the lights came up to reveal an empty stage. This was a clever moment of unforgettable staging, as Steinhardt had whisked his way off the stage in just a few seconds of darkness to complete the effect. Another recollection from this time is just how impactful Kansas lyrics were, and how their emotive live presentation brought out the meaning and import of their verse. Songs like “Miracles Out of Nowhere”, “The Wall” and others made an enriching impact on the attentive listeners soul.

Steve Walsh
Steve Walsh

By the next tour, to support Point of Know Return, Kansas were playing at arenas and we saw their incredible virtuosic performance on New Year’s Eve 1977 at the Long Beach arena. On that night Steve Walsh delivered an unbelievably athletic performance – exuding the physicality of a crazed gymnast, while simultaneously singing his magnificent lead vocals at full tilt. On this occasion they pulled another stunt to end the set, departing the stage one by one, while seemingly still playing the coda of “Sparks of the Tempest.”

In a surprising and nostalgic touch, Kansas ended last Saturday’s set with that same song, walking away from their instruments to take a bow during the pre-recorded coda, echoing that bit of staging from back in 1977. What came before was a near perfect set list, which included something from all of their core releases other than Song For America. They featured many deep tracks and fan favorites to go alongside the hits. Examples included “Icarus, Borne On Wings Of Steel” from Masque, “What’s On My Mind” from Leftoverture, “Closet Chronicles” from Point Of Know Return, and a personal favorite “Reason To Be” from Monolith.

KansasArticlePlatt2015From the first notes of the opener, the title track from Point of Know Return, it was clear that this lineup is back in top form. In particular, Ronnie Platt, who took the unenviable position of hitting Steve Walsh’s rich high notes, nailed both the attitude and control needed to pull off the job. With that role filled, the well-rehearsed band sounded fantastic, able to recreate their complex, challenging pieces with precision and aplomb. We went in a bit skeptical, but came away impressed, ready to recommend the band again to new and original fans, and anyone curious to know what real classic rock is like in concert. Kansas is, once again, a band.