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Carrying On With Kansas
The crowd gathering in the auditorium contained more gray heads than an AARP convention. Some of the ladies in attendance wore retro-looking tie-dyed T-shirts.
“Bunch of old hippies!” I thought to myself.
My wife and I had gone to the venue to enjoy the lyrical offerings of a musical ensemble who have been around long enough to be labeled as “classic.” That’s what happens when you age: You go from being called whippersnapper to adult to middle-aged to classic. The next step, I imagine, is fossil.
The group of musicians stepped out onto the stage. Although due to some of the members’ advanced age, “tottered” might be a better description.
But appearances can be deceiving. Within moments, a roaring freight train of sound rolled over the audience, causing many of them to turn off their hearing aids.
And so began our evening with the classic rock group called Kansas.
I first heard of Kansas when I was but a callow teenager. The band soon became part of the soundtrack of my youth. My car’s AM radio routinely blasted out such tunes as “Dust in the Wind” and “Point of No Return.” After hearing Kansas come out of a tiny, tinny speaker for all those years, it was a head trip to actually experience them in person.
The music at their concert was also coming out of speakers, obviously. But we’re talking about woofers the size of cattle trailers. Several times during the Kansas concert, I instinctively reached into my pocket because it felt as if my cell phone were vibrating. Nope. Just an overabundance of vibrato in the room.
Despite their advancing years, most of the members of Kansas still wear their hair in a rock star shoulder-length style. I admired their denial of the passage of time. But one would expect nothing less from a group who issued an album titled “Monolith” that featured cover art depicting a Native American man wearing a space helmet that had been accessorized with a set of buffalo horns.
The band’s energy level was impressive for an aging group of guys, some of whom qualify for Social Security. Perhaps their vigor was partially due to the knowledge that Medicare will pick up the tab should they injure themselves during an extremely intense guitar riff.
Speaking of energy, one of the most caffeinated members of Kansas was violinist and guitar guy David Ragsdale. There were moments when he virtually attacked his fiddle and other times when he made it sing so sweetly that it could have caused all four faces on Mount Rushmore to weep.
Frontman Ronnie Platt belted out the old Kansas songs in a manner that seemed indistinguishable from the original vinyl. Listening to him croon tunes from “Leftoverture” transported me back to my teens and the front seat of my 1959 Ford Fairlane. Which is a wonderful thing, because if there’s anything we aging hippies can’t stand it’s inconsistency.
Seated behind my wife and I were a young couple. And by “young” I mean, “we have cottage cheese older than they are.”
The youthful couple were extremely vocal in showing their appreciation for Kansas’ music. As each tune ended, they would clap and whistle and shout such things as “WOO-HOO!” and “Oh, heck yeah!” using a different four-lettered “h” word in the place of “heck.”
The show ended with a thunderous rendition of “Carry On Wayward Son.” After the lights went up, I chatted with the youthful Kansas fanatics. Justin and Brittany said that they are originally from Bismarck. I knew this was true because A) nobody would ever lie about being from North Dakota, and B) when prompted, Justin was able to correctly pronounce North Dakota as “Nordakota.”
I told them that they seemed rather unseasoned to be fans of geezer rock. Justin replied that they were 25 years old, confirming my suspicion that I own socks that were purchased before he was born.
“Brittany and I grew up on this music,” said Justin. “Our parents played it for us all the time, and we can’t get enough of it. Last year, we took my dad to see a Paul Simon performance and a Heart concert. At the end of the month, we’re taking him to see Three Dog Night.”
Wow! Now there’s an example of offspring who know how to properly treat their parents! Anyone who has baby boomer progenitors should take note.
As we left the performance hall, I asked my wife what she thought of Kansas.
“They aren’t getting older,” she replied, “They’re becoming even more classic!”
I think that’s a slogan all of us aging rockers should adopt.
Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at Workman.com and in bookstores nationwide.