Gig review: KANSAS – Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 17 July 2014

Kansas were back after a nine year gap since their last London date and this was always going to be a special gig as Steve Walsh had announced a couple of weeks earlier that he was leaving the band after these European dates and a final gig in the US on August 16th.

Ronnie Platt is replacing him (previous vocalist John Elefante said God told him not to rejoin!) and makes his debut with the band in the US on September 12th. A decent turn out too with all bar the third level nearly full.

There was no Kansas merchandise on sale at the venue, instead they showed their modern outlook as any fan taking a photo tonight and then sending it to an email address announced by the band’s manager before the gig commenced, would get a 15% discount on the online merchandise store.

First up we had the young Brit blues rock band Tax The Heat, fresh from appearances at Download and being on Aerosmith’s Clapham Common supporting bill. Smartly dressed, with a whiff of the 50’s rock ‘n’ roll look, they played a high tempo blues rock set and they went down well with the crowd. The drummer certainly pounded out the beats from a small kit and definitely a band worth seeing live if you get the chance.

Starting off with two instrumentals, ‘Mysteries and Mayhem’ and ‘Lamplight Symphony’ allowed Kansas a chance to warm-up, before ‘The Wall’ and a simply stunning ‘Point Of Know Return’, one of my favourite songs by the band.

The latter featured David Ragsdale playing like a whirling dervish on the violin and along with Phil Ehart’s (he never seems to age!) power house drumming, these two certainly kept the energy level high in the band throughout the night.

With the acoustic guitars out it could only be ‘Dust In The Wind’, one of the band’s most famous songs and the only time Steve Walsh’s voice seemed to falter, possibly due to the emotion of the occasion.

There were a few sound gremlins as a couple of times you couldn’t quite pick out the soloing of Rich Williams, who along with the aforementioned Ehart, is the only other original member who will be left once Walsh leaves.

A strong trio of ‘Miracles Out Of Nowhere’, ‘Down The Road’ and ‘Portrait (He Knew)’ finished the main set in style. The musicianship of this band is something else, very musical and talented and they resist the temptation to over solo like some bands do. Billy Greer handled what little banter the band had with the audience, Steve Walsh bless him kept saying ‘thank you’ after every song received rapturous applause.

What a pair of encores, the melodic rock bliss of ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ and of course ‘Carry On Wayward Son’, both performed faultlessly by the band. Kansas showed their musical class tonight and even after 41 years the band prove they still have what it takes to put on a great show.

Hopefully they will be back in the UK sooner rather than later and any new material hinges very much on the health of main songwriter Kerry Livgren, currently recuperating from illness. Hopefully Steve Walsh will carry on in a solo guise again as he certainly sounded better tonight than at 2005’s show.

Review by Jason Ritchie


Mysteries And Mayhem & Lamplight Symphony (Instrumentals)/The Wall/Point Of Know Return/Song For America/Hold On/Dust In The Wind/Cheyenne Anthem/Belexes/Icarus – Borne On Wings of Steel/Miracles Out Of Nowhere/Down The Road/Portrait (He Knew)
Encore:  Fight Fire With Fire/Carry On Wayward Son

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