Song For America, the title track of a Kansas-album from 1975, has always been very special to me. It was the first Kansas-song I heard on a Dutch radio station. The song also appeared on Always Never The Same (1998). On that album, Kansas collaborates with The London Symphony Orchestra that obviously provided a classical touch to their music.
Now, eleven years later, Kansas released a live DVD together with the Washburn University Orchestra conducted by Larry Baird. On There’s Know Place Like Home, recorded in their hometown Topeka, we can again enjoy Song For America. The song, accompanied by some old footage of America through the years, fits the music well. Unfortunately, Kansas didn’t include Preamble, the instrumental piece that I considered to be the introduction of Song For America. This is such a powerful track and so cleverly done that it should have been on this recording. Actually, that is the only ‘negative’ remark I’ve got for this outstanding release, a killer DVD showing that the music of Kansas seems to be made for a classical adaptation. Right from the start, you know that you are going to witness something special indeed. Their 35th anniversary show contains only highlights. Keyboardist and main vocalist Steve Walsh is in great shape. His voice sounds very strong even in the higher regions and at the same time he plays all the difficult piano parts. The orchestral parts, however, are very important on this DVD. Especially Nobody’s Home is a fine example of how the orchestral arrangements are integrated into the music of Kansas.
When violinist Robby Steinhardt left Kansas for the first time in 1981, David Ragsdale replaced him very well on violin, guitar and background vocals. When he left for the second time, the band was lucky enough to get David back on board again. It’s just amazing to see him perform. Next to Steve Walsh, Ragsdale has a leading role during the whole performance. Instead of Steinhardt, bassist Billy Greer does all the talking on stage. He introduces the songs and the guest musicians, but he also sings the parts that Robby used to sing. He does that in a proper way as we can hear on Miracles Out Of Nowhere and Cheyenne Anthem.
Kansas invited also two guest musicians who used to be guitarist in the band. With Steve Morse Kansas recorded Power and In The Spirit Of Things. From these albums, Musicatto and Ghosts/Rainmaker are performed with Steve on guitar. Kerry Livgren is one of the founding members and one of the main composers of Kansas. During Hold On, he plays the electric guitar and on The Wall, we find him behind the pipe organ. Both musicians return for the final encore. With Kerry Livgren on acoustic guitar and Steve Morse on the electric violin, they play a wonderful version of the popular tune Dust In The Wind, the only hit single Kansas ever had in The Netherlands. Thereafter, Kerry remains on stage for an excellent performance of Carry On Wayward Son. Especially, the harmony vocals sound as if they were taken from the original recording.
Unfortunately, after one hour and 45 minutes the show is over. Without doubt, Kansas recorded one of best DVD releases of 2009. The bonus track Down The Road, a great afternoon jam featuring the two special guests on stage, is a fine desert after a very tasteful meal. For such a fine DVD and for one of the best progressive rock bands ever only the highest rating is suitable.
Note: the soundtrack of this concert is also available on a double CD, a single CD and as a package with DVD and double CD.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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