Kansas live review - Copernicus Centre, Chicago

Kansas bring incredible musicianship (and a great light show) to Chicago

Kansas, on stage in Chicago
(Image: © Andy Argyrakis)

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Kansas are back in top form. After line‑up changes which have brought a new lead singer (Ronnie Platt), guitar player (Zak Rizvi), and keyboardist (Dave Manion), the band are re-energised and recapturing the aura of their 70s live performances, with only guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart remaining from those days.

The show starts with a seated acoustic set. During this, Platt hits all the high notes for Hold On and brings the crowd to their feet in applause. The second part of the night brings songs from their new album The Prelude Implicit, which mesh well with the classics, as they sound like classic Kansas. The new songs, such as With This Heart and The Voyage Of Eight Eighteen are thoroughly enjoyable, with the latter packing a punch.

This portion of the show has a bite to it, with Rizvi ripping through furious leads. Each time he has the spotlight on him, he makes each note count. It’s a furious display, and the crowd can’t get enough of it. Journey From Mariabronn showcases not only Rizvi’s skills, but Manion’s chops as well. He’s not just a hired gun, but a fine performer who can play all that’s asked of him, while also plugging in all the great synthesiser sounds from Kansas’ past. And violinist David Ragsdale must be among the finest at his instrument in progressive circles. This is indeed a band of seven members who merge together so well, and they’re all tremendous musicians.

The final stage of the concert has the band playing Leftoverture in its entirety, to celebrate the classic album’s 40th anniversary. Platt gives it his all, in the process proving he’s a worthy replacement for legendary singer Steve Walsh. At times he sounds eerily similar to Walsh and can hit many of the same astonishing notes. Beyond that, Platt has tremendous presence, not only running around the stage, but also playing keyboards as well, just as Walsh once did. Carry On Wayward Son, The Wall and Miracles Out Of Nowhere all pack a punch and have the crowd standing up, singing the words with the band. It makes for a special atmosphere.

The night wraps up with an encore featuring Portrait (He Knew). The audience give Kansas thunderous applause and are in such a frenzy that it feels like 1976 again. While Kansas have gone through some changes, this is a show worth seeing. It’s loud, has a great light show, and the musicianship is incredible. Kansas are in peak condition, which makes this far more than nostalgia.