KANSAS – A State of Music

EVENT: Kansas in concert

WHEN: December 6

WHERE: Florida Theatre

INFO:  www.floridatheatre.com

It’s been less than two years since Ronnie Platt signed on as the new keyboardist and lead singer for Kansas and he hasn’t slowed down yet. Since joining the band in July, 2014 following the retirement of Steve Walsh, Platt has played 100 shows. Kansas performs Dec 6 at the Florida Theatre. The date is the band’s 95th show this year and the last for 2015.

“That must be why I’m so tired,” Platt says. “It’s not like our workload ends. We’re still busy as ever between writing and going into the studio to record for the new CD. Other than spending the holidays with the family, there’s not really a lull in the action. First the studio then right back to a crazy show schedule.”

Kansas is set to record their 15th studio album, and their first with Platt on lead vocals. Their last album “Somewhere to Elsewhere” was released in 2000, marking the band’s longest period between albums. It’s an awesome responsibility to not just perform on stage as a touring musician but to create a new link in the band’s history.

“Pinch me. I do feel a little pressure and it’s self-imposed really. I have such a mission to push the limit, to go even farther than I think I can go. It’s not like the band doesn’t have a giant catalog of incredible, amazing music so the total Kansas anthology puts the pressure on to really do well,” he says. “Because I think that’s not only what the fans expect but we expect of ourselves.  We’re writing collectively as a band and that’s really everybody putting their ingredients into the soup. It’s such a huge gift.”

Platt is tight-lipped about the upcoming project but he is excited about what the band has created so far. Platt says he and Danny were both fans of Kansas prior to joining the band. That impact is hard to deny during the writing process.

“It’s good stuff. It’s definitely Kansas but it’s got an identity of its own. If you’re familiar with the Kansas catalog over the years, the style is very diverse. There are some really hardcore prog rock songs and there’s some straight ahead rock n roll songs and some ventures off the beaten path in between. When you write something, it does have hints of that Kansas flavor in there. Whether you consciously want to hit that goal or not, it’s still there because of the influence it’s had on you through the years.”

Kansas gained early popularity in the 70s with album-oriented rock charts and later with hit singles such as “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind“. The band has produced eight gold albums, three sextuple-platinum albums Leftoverture   and The Best of Kansas and the platinum live album Two for the Show. Kansas appeared on the Billboard charts for over 200 weeks throughout the 70s and 80s and played to sold-out arenas and stadiums throughout North America, Europe and Japan.

Performing from such a vast anthology makes it difficult for Platt to pin down a favorite Kansas song. It differs depending on the crowd, the venue or the mood. “My favorite Kansas song changes every hour. When we talk about adding a couple new songs to the show, it’s like ‘oh my God! I haven’t listened to that song in a while. I love that song.’ It grabs ahold of you for a while until someone will suggest something else. I’d really like to do “Windows” off of Vinyl Confessions.”

Platt monitors social media for cues on what Kansas fans are hoping to hear. He’s always amazed how deep into the catalog some people are willing to travel but there are those monuments like and the million-selling single “Dust in Wind” and “Carry On Wayward Son” that remain perennial standards. “Carry On Wayward Son” was the second-most-played track on classic rock radio in 1995 and No. 1 in 1997.

“Carry On Wayward Son” has been covered by Critical MassDream TheaterYngwie MalmsteenThe Oak Ridge Boys, Rachel RachelThe ShowdownStryperGwar, and off-the-cuff live versions by the Foo Fighters and Panic at the Disco. The riff was also featured live by Pantera in their song “Cowboys from Hell.”

“Dust in the Wind” has been covered by such a varied collection of artists including Sarah Brightman, the Scorpions, Christian artists Acappella and Billy Smileyprogressive trance DJs Gabriel & Dresden and  former New York Yankees center fielder and jazz guitarist Bernie Williams. Will Ferrell sang the song in the movie Old School. It was featured in several episodes of the television series Highlander and was referenced in the film Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

“Where haven’t you heard “Dust in the Wind”? From concerts to elevators, you’ve heard it everywhere. And “Carry On” in that Budweiser commercial where the guy is running that karaoke show. It’s hysterical. I laugh every time I see that,” Platt says. “Talk about the soundtrack of your life. They are songs that have just stood the test of time and are permanently ingrained in so many people’s minds. I’ll see those people in the first few rows and there are three or four fans that are singing every word, even in the deep cut stuff. They’re like a human teleprompter to me. I’m like, ‘I need to get this person’s number’. It’s good stuff. All of it.”

About Liza Mitchell