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Albany's Palace - Review: Kansas still rocking the years

Albany's Palace - Review: Kansas still rocking the years

Albany's Palace - Review: Kansas still rocking the years
Kansas performs at the Palace Theatre in Albany on Saturday.
Photographer: KIRSTEN FERGUSON/For the Daily Gazette

After 46 years, only two original members remain of the classic rock band Kansas, who brought their “Point of Know Return” 40th anniversary tour to Albany’s Palace Theatre on Saturday night.

The group formed in Topeka, Kansas, in 1973 with a name that evoked the heartland and a progressive-rock sound that merged crunchy guitar parts and tight vocal harmonies with futuristic keyboards and classical violin.

Although founding drummer Phillip Ehart and guitarist Rich Willams remain, several of the originators of the band’s sound have moved on. Robby Steinhardt — the first violinist and co- frontman — last played with the group in 2006. 

Original singer Steve Walsh retired from Kansas in 2014. Kerry Livgren — who penned some of the biggest hits — last appeared with the band in 2011.

But new blood may be valuable in a group pushing five decades. Current singer and keyboardist Ronnie Platt, who’s been with the band since 2014, sounded remarkably adept on all the complex vocal parts and bore quite a vocal resemblance to original singer Steve Walsh.

He put energy and raw emotion into his performance, as did the rest of the band.

And the crowd at the Palace didn’t appear to view the group as any less “Kansas.” 

Although not sold out, the audience was enthusiastic and filled with longtime followers of the band who yelled out encouragement and marveled afterward about the crispness of the sound, which was remarkably good.

Over 22 songs, Kansas covered material from 10 albums, including their latest studio album, 2016’s “The Prelude Implicit.” 

And to honor its 40th anniversary, they played their biggest selling album, 1977’s “Point of Know Return,” in its entirety.

The show opened at 8 p.m. sharp with band members seated on stools for a four-song mini-acoustic set, including “People of the South Wind,” “Hold On,” “Refugee” and “Lonely Wind,” the latter an epic ballad that led off with mournful strings from violinist David Ragsdale.

After that, they were ready to rock on an electric set that included crunchy rocker “Cold Grey Morning,” desperate drinking song “Two Cents Worth,” synth-heavy “Song for America,” “What’s On My Mind” and the art-rock sounding “Icarus — Born on Wings of Steel.”

In front of a backdrop of a ship tipping off a cliff, taken from the artwork on the cover of the band’s fifth studio album, “Point of Know Return,” the group played that album’s songs in order, with highlights including Platt’s vocal gymnastics on the bombastic title track.

“This is the kind of song careers are made of,” said Kansas bassist Billy Greer before the band launched into “Dust in the Wind,” the classic ballad about time passing and mortality, which received a sustained applause.

After finishing off the album’s playlist with “Nobody’s Home” and “Helplessly Human,” Kansas returned for an encore of “Carry on Wayward Son,” their biggest hit, an epic number that has endured well into the 21st century and may well last beyond.

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