Kansas Rocks The Valley

Jul 29, 2021

Kansas:  The Point of Know Return - Live & Beyond (2021)

American progressive rock giants Kansas are celebrating their 47th anniversary with a concert Saturday night (July 31, 2021) as part of the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival in Orkney Springs.

The band's current lead singer Ronnie Platt had the difficult task of replacing Steve Walsh, the band's original singer. Platt’s been with the group for seven years and is featured on their last two studio albums. WMRA’s Chris Boros had a chance to talk with Ronnie Platt and he asked him what it was like becoming the lead singer for a band as big as Kansas.

Ronnie Platt from Kansas

Ronnie Platt: Talk about counting your blessings taking over for Steve. There was a mountain of anxiety with me, but I said to myself, if I win half the fans over, I'm going to be happy from my perspective. Now I think I've won over 90% of the fans if not more. It's just been great and I really think it's shown just in the time that I've been in the band that the audiences have gotten bigger and bigger, and outside of that, the audiences have gotten younger, which restores my faith in the youth of America to know the kids are into this kind of music. And I think what really propelled us there was our association with the TV show Supernatural, where they unofficially adopted “Wayward Son” as their theme song. They might not know Kansas but they'll know the song “Wayward Son,” from Supernatural.  I always end it with the same thing - your parents love us.

Kansas - The Absence of Presence (2020)

WMRA:  I wonder if these last two studio records that the band has made has had an impact on that. The most recent one, The Absence of Presence, it reached number 10 on the Billboard album chart. You guys have got to be thrilled that the new material is getting so much love and praise from the fans.

RP:  It has?  (Laughing)  We're really proud of them and The Prelude Implicit was just thrilling to get that out there and have that so well received and now to have Absence so well received and what really blows my mind is how well it's been received in Europe. Like number one in Sweden or Norway. Then number two in the UK and I'm like, are you kidding me?   The Kudos really goes to Rich and Phil - Phil Ehart, original drummer, Rich Williams, original guitar player in Kansas. After all these years still having a desire to put out new music to still satisfy that creative vein that they have - just adding to the library of Kansas music which is already very rich.

Kansas - The Prelude Implicit (2016)

WMRA:  How important is it for the band to keep making new albums? A lot of bands that have been around for years and years, they become kind of nostalgia acts. But when you’re release new studio albums, that is thrown out the window. So how important is it to keep doing that? Is there another one in the pipeline?

RP:  If I'm not letting the cat out of the bag and I talk to Phil constantly and yeah, it just seems to be typical Kansas work ethic to just not only do these shows, but to keep the creative juices flowing. Do I see us doing another studio album? Yeah, probably for release in 2023. Unlike some bands that had some popularity with an album or one or two albums - again, Kansas, Chris, it's why I don't make the set list because if I made the set list our show would be five hours long.

WMRA:  Make the set list.  We want 5-hour Kansas shows.

RP:  I'll be fine.  (Mimicking a tired voice).  

Kansas - Song For America (1975)

RP:  There's just too much good music and we change up our set list along the way because we like to hit on stuff that we haven't played in a while and we love digging out the older tunes. And now we're working on a couple of songs that we're going to add to the set list from Absence. 

WMRA:  The fans of the band when they come and see you guys, I think most people know those records inside and out, those old classic albums. So any song you pull out, those fans are going to know it, even if it's the rarer song on the album.

RP:  They really do.  The Kansas audiences is not the type of audience were ‘oh we like the songs but we never really knew the name of the band.’ It's not like that with Kansas. I can see it in the faces of the people.  There's just so much excitement and anticipation at a show and I love when we play a really deep cut. I see people in the audience just go: wow, I can't believe they're playing this. 

Kansas - 2021

WMRA:  The band did recently lose a member – Zak Rizvi he left the group and he wrote a lot of the new material for these past two albums. So how does that change the dynamic of the group and who's going to be writing the new material?

RP:  That's discussed too with Zak's departure. Everyone else is just going to step up to the plate. There's no lack of eagerness in the creative vain.  When it comes to writing - Rich Williams, just being in the studio with him and recording the last two albums, especially the first one Prelude Implicit that I was on. We'd be sitting in the lounge at the studio and he'd just be plucking away on an acoustic guitar and he does stuff on guitar that I never heard another guitar player do.  That just transpose us to great music and a zillion ideas for future.

Kansas - Leftoverture (1976)

WMRA:  Kansas is playing the Shenandoah Valley Saturday night. What can we expect?

RP:  Bring yourself a squeegee so you can squeegee yourself off because it's going to be one heck of a show.  This band just bursting at the seams to get out and bring our show to our audience. Everyone's been cooped up, it's time to get out and enjoy some live music and Kansas can't wait to bring it to you firing on all cylinders. 

WMRA:  What's the best part about being in the band?

RP:  I love the music. I have loved this music my entire life. I've been a prog-rocker my entire life. The best thing is just playing this music and seeing people's reaction. The excitement - that just does it for me.