Kansas still carrying on after five decades
The members of 1970s rock band Kansas have hit a point of no return before their big concert Saturday at the Beacon Theatre. And they’re a little anxious.
“I don’t think it’s nervousness, more of an eagerness,” says original drummer Phil Ehart, who with his six bandmates will perform two seminal albums, 1976’s “Leftoverture” and 1977’s “Point of Know Return,” in their entirety in a one-night-only event.
“Like a kid running down the steps on Christmas morning, we’re just anxious to get it on and open those presents,” Ehart, 69, tells The Post.
“I’ve been doing this almost 47 years, yet there’s always a bit of anxiety and anticipation before any show,” adds original guitarist Richard Williams, also 69. “To come into this situation with something we’ve never done before does add a little bit of nerves to it.”
The band, best known for multi-platinum singles “Dust in the Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son,” first formed in 1973 in Topeka, Kan., and became part of an arena prog rock wave that also included groups such as Boston, Styx, Foreigner, Jethro Tull and Yes.
Kansas has stayed active in the decades since, touring and releasing 15 albums, their most recent 2016’s “The Prelude Implicit.” Williams and Ehart have remained in the group despite member turnover, most notably the 2014 retirement of longtime lead vocalist Steve Walsh, who was “struggling vocally” toward the end of his 41-year reign, says Williams.
“Steve had been in the trenches with us a long time, but his voice was shot,” says Williams, who commends Walsh for hanging in for so long. “It’s a testament to his dedication that he continued doing something he didn’t want to, so as to support the organization and fans. His heart was not into it.”
The group found his replacement in 57-year-old Ronnie Platt, a full-time truck driver for 25 years who performed songs by Kansas and other groups in cover bands since he was a teenager. He admits he never dreamed of being a rock star.
“It’s not like when I was younger, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be the lead singer of Kansas or Foreigner,’ ” he says. “I never really had that kind of concept. I just wanted to be in a band.”
But the powerhouse tenor blew them away.
“We thought, ‘This is gonna take forever.’ We were very fortunate to find Ronnie,” says Ehart, who had him perform a version of the song “The Wall” from “Leftoverture” in his audition. “He did it and we looked at each other and said, ‘That’s our guy.’ ”
Platt knew being accepted by audiences could be difficult. “Know why I move around a lot on stage? It’s harder to hit a moving target,” he jokes, adding that it’s “been beyond my wildest dreams” to be welcomed by hardcore fans.
“I said to myself that if I get 50 percent of the Kansas fans, I’m gonna count my blessings,” he says. “At this point, I really feel I’ve won 90 percent of the fans over, and we must be doing something right.”
The band — whose other current members include bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, 67; violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale, 61; keyboardist Tom Brislin, 46; and guitarist Zak Rizvi, 51 — will have one more test when they perform all 22 of the songs from ”Leftoverture” and “Point of Know Return” over more than two hours, without intermission and with a few surprise numbers thrown in. They have done separate anniversary tours for the two albums, but never performed them back-to-back. Williams says they figured NYC would be the right place to give that a whirl.
“We thought we’d end this year with a bang,” he says. “New York is a special town. It has so much going on all the time, you really have to up your game.”
Kansas will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday at Beacon Theatre, 2124 Broadway; tickets start at $44. MSG.com/beacon-Theatre
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