This year, the Kansas State Fair celebrates its 100th birthday, while Kansas celebrates 40 years as a band.
The two came together as the opening act of the state fair on Friday night.
Now down to three members of its original core, the band still produces the unique I recall from high school days.
While its youthful exuberance and energy are long gone, Kansas still created an impressive wall of sound. The band pulled out familiar songs for a largely baby boomer crowd enjoying a walk down memory lane, perhaps. “Dust in the Wind,” Kansas’ most well-known song, brought the crowd to its feet.
For me, David Ragsdale, the band’s youngest and newest member, stole the show. Ragsdale, who plays electric violin, primarily, has been with the group from 1991 to 1997 and 2006 to the present. He added an essential energy and enthusiasm to the band’s performance. I can only speculate how many times original band members Phil Ehart and Rich Williams have performed the same crowd favorites.
Kansas had its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s when “Carry on Wayward Son,” “Dust in the Wind,” “People of the South Wind,” “Hang On,” and “Play the Game Tonight” topped the music charts.
I attended a Kansas concert at the Kansas Coliseum sometime in the early 1980s. My two Kansas concert experiences pale in comparison to the 21 Kansas concerts attended by a fortysomething year old guy that my wife and I visited with after the show.
Those who remained for the encore performance—and that was just about everyone—enjoyed the highlight of the night. Kerry Livgren, perhaps the heart and soul of Kansas, joined the group for its final number, of “Carry on Wayward Son.” Livgren performed in the two predecessors of what became Kansas in 1973. He wrote or co-wrote many of the band’s hit songs before departing Kansas in 1983 over philosophical differences with lead singer Steve Walsh, who also left the band briefly before returning several years later. Livgren is still recovering from a massive stroke he suffered on September 1, 2009, though he has been performing on and off with Kansas since January 28, 2011, when he and the band performed with the Kansas State University Symphony Orchestra for the 150th anniversary of our state.
Friday night was a good night for Kansas and a good night for the Kansas State Fair. Like all state fair concerts, the ticket price admitted you to both the fair and the concert. At $16.50 a ticket, it was a great way to celebrate all things Kansas.