A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Kansas in preview of their show at the Long Center here in Austin. Obviously I listened to a bunch of their music in preparation for the interview, because I am a serious music journalist, and yes, my research went beyond going to YouTube and looking up Kansas videos.* Anyway, long story short, I ended up getting really into Kansas.
So I’m not gonna lie that I was kinda psyched for their show on August 20th. Yes, I expected to be the youngest person there and yes, I pretty much was, except for some really surly teenagers who had clearly been dragged there by their middle-aged parents who no doubt had promised “THE GREATEST BAND EVER, CHILDREN” and the children were probably somewhat confused. Or perhaps they noted that, “Hey, that’s that one song Will Ferrell sings in Old School.” I mean, either way, I went to see Kansas and they rocked.
This was my first time inside the Long Center which is a lot fancier than places I normally go, and I know this because they have programs when you go in and inside the programs are advertisements for luxury real estate, fur companies, and cosmetic surgery centers (the trifecta of “rich people stuff”). So that was cool. The Long Center deserves its reputation as one of the best venues in Austin. The set up and sound were impeccable.
As for Kansas, itself — yeah, it was Kansas. I mean, I knew what I was getting. They’ve been doing the live show thing for 40 years now, and they know what they’re doing. Obviously not breaking any new ground, because why do that when people are eagerly paying to see classic Kansas? And man, people were into it. Like, super into it. Like, standing-ovation-after-every-song into it. Just a whole big group of people reliving their youth by seeing Kansas. And that got me thinking, “Is this what I’m going to be like in 30 years? Will the nostalgia of certain bands or songs be as strong for the stuff I listen to right now as it is for people and the classic prog rock sound of Kansas? Will I drag my sullen teenagers to see Radiohead or The Decemberists with the claim that they don’t know music because they don’t know my favorites from when I was young?” I don’t know, man. I don’t know. If it’s gonna happen with any band for me, it’s gonna be New Kids on the Block.
Anyway, it was a good show. Solid. You don’t hear many voices like singer Ronnie Platt in rock music much anymore, which is a shame. He nailed it, and truthfully I probably would have never known he wasn’t the original lead singer. They played the hits and everyone was pleased.
Perhaps what I liked most about the show was the fact that the band is using the famous mural of John Brown as their backdrop (and who’s also on the cover of their first album). It’s such a fantastically American painting — you know, a religious fanatic with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other — who I’m sure did terrible things to loads of people. You can see it yourself in person at the State Capitol in Topeka and it is somehow terrifying, funny and shameful, all at once. Thanks, Mom, for all those super-informative spring break trips driving endlessly across the plains of America where we got to see insane murals like that in person. Childhood memories, yo.
*No, it didn’t.
Setlist for Kansas 8/20/2015 (via setlist.fm):
- People of the South
- Point of Know Return
- What’s on My Mind
- Play the Game Tonight
- The Wall
- Reason to Be
- Dust in the Wind
- Miracles Out of Nowhere
- Opus Insert
- Closet Chronicles
- Hold On
- Belexes/Lightning’s Hand
- Portrait (He Knew)
- Sparks of the Tempest
- Fight Fire with Fire (encore)
- Carry On Wayward Son (encore)
Kansas performed at the Long Center for the Performing Arts August 20th, 2015.