Kansas "Two For The Show"
A band accurately known for their incredible live performances.
"There was just something different about Kansas that felt a bit beyond the “prog-rock” label."
December 17th, Ladies and gents welcome to “Two-fer-Tuesday” where we celebrate a great double live album here on the Live Vinyl Lovefest. Got a dandy for you today with Kansas’s “Two For The Show”.
As a teenager in the 70s, I was consumed by Kansas over the course of their first 5 records. I simply couldn’t get enough of them and they couldn’t do much wrong to my eyes and ears during that period.
My first exposure to them, as well as many other acts now that I think back on it, was from watching Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert on television with their performance of “Can I Tell You”. There was just something different about Kansas that felt a bit beyond the “prog-rock” label. It felt musically and sonically so proficient and ahead of the game in many ways, but at the same time accessible. I soaked it up and I have many fond memories related to their music. I was especially mesmerized by Phil Ehart’s drumming. His patterns against their choice of time signatures were so precise and unique to me at my age and at the stage of my development as a drummer.
The first time I ever saw them live was, believe it or not, at a theme park; 6 Flags Over Mid-America just outside of St. Louis. It was right on the cusp of their 3rd record, Masque and they showcased a lot of material off of that record that, to that time, had not be released or heard. It was also the first time I actually watched someone setup a PA system. If you got to the park early enough you could look through the fake bushes into the open air seating and watch the goings on. Some years later as I looked back on that event, I think it might have been DB Sound out of Chicago and maybe even the infamous Harry Witz mixing, but I’ve never confirmed it. One of the things I most remember about their set that day was Steve Walsh’s performance. Walsh's front man duties and singing for Kansas were shared with Robbie Steinhart and they were quite a contrast. Robbie, stoic and intellectual. Steve all fire and energy. To date, I have never seen anyone with as much vocal energy and physicality on a stage as Walsh in his prime. He never stopped moving, even while posted at the B3. Completely captivating to watch.
I saw the band many times after that and they were simply spell binding in concert. Their concert productions were beautifully crafted. Early on, I vividly remember reading a Hit Parader fan magazine where they had released an article on Kansas’s show production. In it they described the microphone arrangement of Phil’s drum kit. My first exposure to an MD4121 if I remember right. It was a watershed moment for this aspiring young sound engineer I must tell ya.
Fast forward now about 7-8 years and again, I’m touring with Shooting Star and we are opening for Kansas on a string of dates. By this time the band had morphed personal wise with John Elefante singing in place of Walsh. MTV was on the air and Kansas had their first MTV hit with “Play The Game Tonight” But honestly, for me, a bit of the magic in the band had left with the departure of Dave Hope and certainly Steve Walsh. But still, it was incredible to see both on and off stage and be a part of that touring entourage. On that tour, I would also meet their long time production manger Jerry Gilliland who would go on to production manage The Rolling Stones on their Steel Wheels Tour where we would reunite about a decade later. What can I tell ya folks? It’s a small business carried out on a small planet.
“Two For The Show” was released on the heels of “Point of Know Return” and is very solid representation of Kansas at the height of their glory and is worthy of it’s praise. It makes it to my playlist with great regularity. The record itself was pulled together from recordings at The Palladium in New York, Pine Knob Music Theater in Clarkson Michigan and Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia Maryland. All engineered by Davey Moire, Brad Aaron and Dave Hewitt using the Record Plant Mobile and then mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound.
Safe to say, when you’re a young boy born and raised in the home town of civil war zealot John Brown (who graced the cover of Kansas's first record). And when you’re geographically and socially about as far away from the music business as you can be and a band comes on national television called “Kansas”. Well, that’s like dumping jet fuel on a bon fire for igniting your dreams and aspirations. Apparently it had the desired effect, because my aspirations were met, and my dreams came true. And the beauty is, I get to relive them every time I listen to this record. And ya know what? This record sounds freakin awesome this morning.