HomeReviewsOn StageOn Stage: Fifty years of Kansas

On Stage: Fifty years of Kansas

Dateline – DETROIT
Fisher Theater
June 17, 2023

I remember back in the late ’70s, a DJ on one of our FM rock stations in Detroit introducing “Carry On Wayward Son” with the phrase, “It’s time to kick some Kans-ass!!!” Fast-forward to today and Kansas seem to have truly reached the point of know return. With fifty years under their belt and barely two original members remaining, it appears they will continue to brave the point’s demon guard and defy the ocean’s grave that has claimed many brave classic rock acts.

Their 50th anniversary tour rolled into Detroit at the Fisher Theater. The choice of venue piqued my interest, since the theater in Albert Khan’s signature Fisher Building is best known for hosting touring companies of Broadway productions and the occasional orchestra pops concert. This night, instead of dresses and suits, the joint was packed with classic rock fans sporting black concert t-shirts.

The band still features founding member Rich Williams on guitar, but lead vocalist Steve Walsh and primary songwriter and guitarist Kerry Livgren have long since departed. The current lineup features Joe Deninzon on fiddle, Tom Brislin on keys, and Eric Holmquist on drums. Bassist Billy Greer has been a member for over 30 years and is the band’s spokesperson. Ronnie Platt ably clears the high-tenor lead vocal bar set by Walsh in the band’s heyday (and he looks like Will Ferrell doing a Ronnie Platt parody). 

Founding member drummer Phil Ehart, recovering from an arm injury, did take the stage late in the set when the band performed a suite of tunes from their classic 1976 album Leftoverture. This was the highlight for me, as I began my album-oriented life listening to that record, and its follow up, Point of Know Return, every day while struggling through my algebra homework.

I haven’t really kept up with Kansas, except for an oddball bill at Pine Knob in the aughts that paired them with The Tubes (made even less sense back then). I’ll admit that I came in with pretty low expectations of this version of the band. I was very pleasantly surprised – these guys can still play! They nailed complex compositions like the “Icarus” suite and crushed the band’s bigger radio hits like “Play the Game Tonight” and “Hold On.”

Kansas are a throwback to a time when bands got signed on the strength of their musicianship and songcraft, not on buzz alone. This group reminded me of that time: the keyboard/guitar interplay was polished, the vocals crisp and on-pitch, and the ambitious, fiddle-heavy arrangements meticulous.

Mostly this was a love-fest, a celebration of a beloved, bygone era in rock.  By far the most love from the crowd was reserved for the enduring classics “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son.” If you were ever a fan, catch these guys before they hang it up. This isn’t just warmed-over nostalgia, these musicians still kick some Kans-ass.

Check for upcoming 50th anniversary tour dates on kansasband.com

To simulate the concert experience, I invite you to pop a cold one, turn down the lights, crank up your Bluetooth speaker and jam along with this Kansas 50th anniversary-set play list

You may also enjoy

On Stage – Boz Scaggs at Interlochen


Learn more about what we're up to at 360°Sound.