(posts from the Kansas Mailing List - 1995)

Kansas, with special guest Kerry Livgren
Landon Arena, Kansas Expocenter
Friday Night, 8:00pm, 4 Aug 95
Part 2
- (click here for Part 1)

It's been a few years (over twenty) since Chris and I used to party down while watching his brother's band White Clover for a cover charge in Topeka. A lot of things have changed in our lives, and in the lives of current and former members of Kansas, but one thing has changed only very slightly - that's the energy you feel when you're jammin' to Kansas live! Even though Kerry only got to play two songs, Robby didn't get to play any, and the attendance was half what it should be, it was still quite a memorable evening for Kansas fans in Topeka.

The evening started at Chris Livgren's house where he and his wife Roxanne hosted a pre-concert party for PotSWers (People of the Southwind, Kansas Internet Mailing List), friends, and relatives. We all met about 5pm at the Livgren's, and had a good time reminiscing about past Kansas concerts and sharing Kansas souvenirs (Jake has, understandably, a pretty extensive collection of Kansas memorabilia). To give you an idea how many people showed up, and from what distance they traveled, here's a partial attendance list:

Chris & Roxanne Livgren (Kerry's brother and sister-in-law; hosts)
Jake Livgren (Chris' son, and lead singer for some of Kerry's
new recordings)
Britta and Jessie Livgren (Chris' daughters)
Danl and Diane Blackwood (myself and my wife; Wichita, KS)
Rob and Lorrie Gibson (long-time friends; McPherson, KS)
Tony Barilla (Jake's friend and new PotSWer; Manhattan, KS)
Vito Barilla (Tony's brother; Chicago, IL)
Jesse Lowe (PotSWer; Tulsa OK)
Jim and Joe Lowe (Jesse's brothers; Tulsa and Kansas City, respectively)
Steve Tilson and his friend Vera (PotSWer; Seattle, WA)

Kerry Livgren and Danl Blackwood (reviewer)

Many of us met each other for the first time tonight, but you would never have known it. As concert time grew near, we had more special visitors. Kerry Livgren, his wife Vicci, their kids Katie and Kyle, and Robby Steinhardt showed up, and there were some very excited fans getting to meet them for the first time. Kerry and I don't really know each other that well, even though we've been acquainted for many years, but every time we get to visit, he's always very cordial and easy to talk to. Of course, the first thing I asked him was when we'd get to hear "When Things Get Electric". Actually, Jake let us hear the title track earlier in the evening, and it was different, but definitely Kerry. Now I'm really anxious to hear the rest. Kerry told me about a deal he's working for the album, but because it's still in negotiation, I can't really divulge any details. Let's just say it's way cool! Chris had told Kerry about Jake's friend Vito, who was dying to meet him, and could he say a word to him. Kerry said, "Sure, how about - Jesus!" We got a kick out that.

It was good to see Robby again, after many years, and he was happy to visit with this room full of strangers. He talked about his album, and passed out business cards for his agent (whose address and phone we've already received on the list), so we'd have no reason not to order the new album. Let's all support Robby and buy his new album. He said it's been pressed and shipped already, and they should be in his hands within days. One of the things Robby said about his band, other than they were doing a lot of Kansas tunes, was how excited he was to do those Kansas tunes (as well as the new songs) surrounded by so many good vocalists. The other thing discussed was how much he enjoyed Kerry's new album and (as posted previously) he was excited about the possibility of a tour with Kerry (nothing definite here, just hopeful musing). Kerry would love to tour with his new stuff, but he's got to get it released first, and this latest deal is the most promising he's had. Jake would love for Kerry to tour as well, because that would mean a better chance of touring as a lead singer for the first time in his young life (Jake's just 19, but then wasn't John Elefante only 19 when he started with Kansas?)

getting ready for the show

Then it was time to go. My wife traded tickets with Jake, so she could sit with Chris and Roxanne to visit, and Jake and I took off together for the Expocenter. My tickets were on the floor about the seventeenth row, but I had no intention of sitting tonight. (We all bought tickets since it was a benefit.) Before the concert started, I bought my FoN (Freaks Of Nature) T-shirt and tour program, and since they were reserved seats, we only got there about 10 minutes early. In that short time, I saw quite a few old friends I don't normally run into, since every time we come to town, we're usually busy visiting with family. (Both my wife and I have immediate family here in Topeka, and in fact we had already planned on coming to town for a family reunion before we found out about the concert). Two old friends (from the music biz) I visited with just happened to be Joe Green, running sound for the concert, and Dave Semon, running lights. You can rest assured the lights and sound were top quality, and quite probably one of the best for the tour, since both were intimately familiar with Kansas' music. I also found PotSWer Jon Hilton and his wife, Karla, who intended on coming to our pre-concert get-together, but got out of Kansas City too late to make it. I looked for PotSWer and new friend John Bowes, but didn't run into him until breakfast later.

Jake Livgren and Phil Ehart

The concert started at 8pm with a local band, Sonic Mind, which was an above average alternative/metal band (four piece - guitars and rhythm section). They played for a half hour, but quite honestly I was too excited to listen. Jake (who's quite active in the local music scene) was a little surprised to find out these guys were local, as he'd never heard of them before. In fact, it was their first big concert, and they did quite well, considering. Then there was a video and a speaker, Wayne Francis (former Chicago Bear) who was with the Mission Of Mercy who explained all about this benefit for the Oklahoma City Educational Children's Survivor Fund. This fund was setup specifically for the educational needs of orphaned and displaced children survivors of the OKC bomb blast. During this presentation, Jake and I went backstage to visit with the guys before the concert. Jake had purchased a FoN hat, and was getting all the original member's autographs on the six panels. (He got 'em all except Dave's.) I got to visit with Rich, even though it was a brief visit, as they were all getting ready to go. I had to ask him about his heat spell episode earlier this summer. It was extremely hot, and they had been working their rears off, and he had just succumb to the heat. It was nothing serious (even though those who missed the concert would beg to differ), and he was OK the next day. He said he really felt bad about missing the date, but hey, this tour is a grueling schedule, and they're not pups anymore (though after watching Steve on stage, I wondered).

Steve Walsh

I also visited briefly with David (the first time we've met), introducing myself as a PotSWer, and he was glad to see us represented. Rich also was impressed at how wide the Internet interest was for the band. I didn't ask, but I got the impression he has monitored the list before. As they were all getting ready to go, Steve and Phil were teasing Kerry, and betting that he would do an interpretive dance, sounding very much like bandmate ribbing from out of the past. Then they confirmed that Kerry should head for the stage during "The Wall". Phil was doing his air paradiddles, even while I took his picture with Jake. Then it was time for the show.

Rich Williams and Phil Ehart (hiding behind the drums)

The anticipation of the crowd was intense. As the eerie intro music, played the crowd noise grew, and then they took the stage (just after 9pm) with "Portrait (He Knew)". Steve wore a long brown robe over a black outfit. He told the crowd, before they went to the second song (Song For America), that it had been a long time, but now they were home. Rich (playing his famous mounted acoustic) was almost as awesome a presence on stage as Steve was, but it was hard to take your eyes off Steve. As I mentioned earlier, a live Kansas concert has changed only slightly since the early 70's, but one thing that has changed the most is Steve's performance on stage. It was absolutely awesome. He really made me jealous, with my out-of-shape-41-year-old gut (and he's four years older than me!). Now I know what I need to do to get in shape (as if I could even attempt to sing and move like that). However, watching Rich's enormous hands hammer out those intricate and forceful guitar parts was always amazing to me.

David and Kerry David, Kerry, and Billy Greer (that's my friend Mike Newman taking pictures - see his of Kerry below)

David was fun to watch, too. What an incredible musician he is! Billy and Greg were kinda subdued. I figured they might be a little intimidated by this home town crowd, and their overwhelming response to the home town boys. The pace was solid, the music was tight; tighter than I remember back about four years ago. I remembered thinking it would be great to hear the old tunes, but I found myself yelling for FoN tunes along with the others standing at the front of the stage. As a matter of fact, after "Hope Once Again", Steve was trying to introduce the next song, and Tony Barilla was yelling "Black Fathom 4". Steve was obviously amused and little caught off guard, and pointed at Tony as he introduced BF4, which was of course next on the set list. Tony has a collection of printed set lists from the stage, and he ended up with tonight's, complete with the hand written addition of "Hold On". Another guy down front was holding a scrapbook, and showing some of the pics and flyers to Steve and Rich while they played. Later we visited, and I found out he, Chris Ruscitti, had flown from Toronto (mentioned in Mike Newman's review).

Kerry Livgren these two were taken by Mike Newman

After "The Wall", Kerry is introduced, and the crowd goes wild! As mentioned in John Bowes review, Kerry is wearing his No Hair Day hat (cute!), all black jeans and shirt, and his cowboy boots. He looked very comfortable and obviously was enjoying this. They all played "Hold On" and Dust In The Wind". On "Dust", David led an extended ending with some truly amazing violin work, nothing like anything I'd ever seen or heard except maybe at the symphony. As can be expected, just about everybody in the house (or so it seemed) was singing along on "Dust", as well as later on "Carry On Wayward Son" and the encore "Point Of Know Return" (which Steve had us singing the ending by ourselves).

Rich Williams and Phil Ehart (hiding behind the drums)

Also (as I mentioned in a previous post), the highlight for me was when Steve handed the mike to Jake during "Carry On". Jake has a really good voice, and Steve saw him singing along on every song (we were right at the stage all night). Steve kept looking at him, and then finally leaned over and just put it right in his hands. Jake wailed, and Steve gave him a glance of approval. That sent him on a high the rest of the night.

After the concert, we all went out for breakfast, and I ran into John Bowes and the group he went with. We sat and ate and reminisced some more, and got home late. It seems that the Livgren's and the Blackwood's don't really get to visit as much as we like, but we'll always be family. It was great meeting some PotSWers face to face, and making new friends, too. Also thanks Kerry, Robby, and Kansas for a night to remember!

Danl Blackwood

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