Device, Voice, Drum


Compendia, 2002

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk


Kansas has always been at its heart a live band. Despite the quality of their studio work, nothing compares to their live shows, and their fans know this. For over 30 years they have packed venues with their loyal followers, some of who will happily attend 20 shows a year, knowing the band will put 110% into every show they do. At a show in Kansas City, I met fans who had traveled from both coasts, Germany, Mexico and Japan for an opportunity to see them live. The only official video record of the band prior to 2002 was the disappointing Live At The Whisky. Fans wanted something better and they got it in this show.

The venue the chose was ideal. Atlanta’s Earthlink Live is an intimate venue. The front row of the audience is on the stage just feet from the band, and the wrap-around design of the seating gives it an intimate feeling. One audience member described it as “Kansas in your living room.” Kansas really commands an audience, and this one is no exception. The audience is completely in the palm of their hands. The close proximity to the stage is a big part of that. Steve Walsh and Robby Steinhardt easily roam the stage, bringing the fans closer to the performance. They are all exceptionally gifted musicians, and as a group they are as tight as any band to ever walk a stage. You can see them having fun and really getting in to this performance. Their stage presence is magnetic, and you get a lot more than just five guys going through the motions of a greatest hits show.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The camera work is really excellent, with no jerky cuts and weird angles, and the sound is near perfect. The visual element of the show adds a huge dimension, and not just for the obvious reasons of seeing the band. A lot of bands just stand there and play, but Kansas understands how to put on a show. Hearing Robby’s violin is one thing, but it’s not the same as seeing him whirling around the stage sawing away like a madman. The camera work captures a lot of the subtlety of the performance. Modern concert videos are often all long loving shots of the pretty front man or a lot of macho posturing. Here, you get a front-row view of the band interacting. Robby singing with the audience, Steve’s hands a blur over the keys, and the nearly impossible sight of Rich Williams’ huge, slablike hands nimbly flying over this guitar.

The show itself is also more than the usual greatest hits run through you get from most classic rock bands. It’s of the best examples I’ve seen of a well thought out, carefully chosen setlist.  They open the show by going all the way back to their first album with a blistering version of “Belexes,” followed by “Icarus II” from their most recent album, spanning 30 years in eight minutes. Some other gems from their earlier days surface, including stunning versions of “Journey From Mariabronn” and “Song For America.” Of course they play the familiar hits, including an unlikely encore medley of the two hits from the John Elefante era, “Fight Fire With Fire” and “Play The Game,” sounding better then the originals by far. “The Preacher” finally gets its due. Long praised by stalwart Kansas fans as a favorite, this show was likely the first time it had been performed in almost 10 years. With a full gospel choir on a riser above the stage, it’s a highlight of the show. For “Dust In The Wind” they bring out a string quartet to accompany them.

I’ve seen Kansas live at least 30 times, and I still enjoy watching this video. The audio version on CD is also excellent and includes the complete show. Based on the interviews included on the DVD, they intended this largely as a thank you to their fans. It’s a lovingly crafted video that captures the essence of their live show visually and sonically. With violinist Robby Steinhardt recently retired from touring, it also serves as a loving tribute to an amazing performer. If you’re a crazed fan or just curious about Kansas, this deserves a viewing.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A



© 2008 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Compendia, and is used for informational purposes only.