Friday, July 28, 2017

Kansas, and how angels get their wings

I had a good day at work this past Wednesday. I had what might well be my last visit with a child I've been working with who is about to be adopted by a Long Island couple. And it doesn't get much better than that. As far as I'm concerned, every time a child gets adopted by a good family, another angel gets their wings. (You know, like when a bell rings in It's a Wonderful Life!).

This put me in such a happy mood that I decided to celebrate and treat myself by seeing Kansas at the Westbury Music Fair. (I refuse, on principle, to use this venue's bank name. Most of the time, I can't remember it anyway).

Now I don't even want to tell you how long I've wanted to see this band. I can remember working one of my first jobs, just after (temporarily) dropping out of college. The boss's daughter, a young newlywed woman, was prattling on excitedly about her and her husband going to see Bowie live. "I see that Kansas is playing there the next night," I offered helpfully. "Oh, we only go to see good bands," she responded, her nose high in the air. "Oh, yeah? Well ... well ... eff you, and your useless husband" I shot back. In my heart at least. Actually, I think I just weakly stated "I like Kansas." And I should. Think about it for a minute: "Carry On Wayward Son" and "Dust in the Wind" -- two of the greatest rock songs of all time, both written and recorded by Kansas. (Well, "Dust" might actually be classified as a folk song, but you know what I mean).

And I do. But somehow, even though they come to Long Island once or twice a year, and I always mark it on my calendar, I never wind up going. At least until this past Wednesday. I think it's because Denise, being basically an '80s girl, has no interest in them whatsoever. My son might go with me, but he wouldn't enjoy them. I know his taste. And my daughter would probably go with me. But she really only knows "Carry On" and "Dust", and she'd be bored the rest of the night. She's not really a progressive rock fan either.

In spite of that, I had marked the Kansas date on my calendar a few months ago, and for once, the stars lined up right. I ended my adoption visit already halfway to Westbury, with plenty of time to grab some food and put my fanny in a seat at the arena with time to spare. As I got in my car, I started to think, "Maybe I shouldn't. I've been to a bunch of concerts recently anyway, and I have a few more on my calendar in the immediate future. And we just got back from vacation in Florida, so we still have all those bills to pay. I should be responsible for once, and just save the money." Nah.

I arrived in the parking lot of the Westbury Music Fair about a half hour later. I went to the box office, and as I suspected, there were plenty of tickets available. And wouldn't you know it, one of them had my name on it. (At least it did after I bought it).

On the way in, I ran into the venerable Long Island music scene veteran John Blenn and his wife Joni. We caught up a little bit -- I haven't seen him for at least a decade. I actually expected to run into more people that I knew, but that didn't happen. But it was nice to see John and Joni, anyway.

The Westbury Music Fair is one of my favorite places on Long Island to see a national act. It's always comfortable, and the seats are all close enough to the stage that you feel like you're part of show. Heck, Deborah Harry once accidentally flashed me there, but that's a story for another day. And the sound is usually good. When I was in my 20's, it was a classy venue that basically only showcased old fart music. Heck, I think Eydie Gorme's ghost still sings there with Steve Lawrence's mummified body three or four times a year. But now I'm an old fart, so it's my old fart bands that play there. This aging thing does have some benefits.

Kansas had no opening act. Instead, they went on about 8:15 (fifteen minutes later than advertised) and played without a break until 10. Now I'd say the venue was only a little more than half full, with the band playing in the half round. But I have to tell you, I would characterize the crowd that was there as wildly enthusiastic. See kids, this is what your parents and your grandparents do when you're not around -- they rock the fuck out! I'd tell you what else they do too, but you'd never be able to look grandma in the eye again. I can tell you for sure that some of the grandpa's here were going to get lucky tonight! Especially the balding gentleman in the row in front of me, whose date for the night (his wife, I hope) was shaking her long white hair like crazy, fist pumping like a madwoman, and shaking what she had so hard I was afraid she'd break a hip. She was pumped, happy, and feeling young again, and I only hope she could keep her hands off of the poor old geezer long enough to let him drive home safely.

Kansas is sounding mighty good these days. Ronnie Platt, the guy who took over for Steve Walsh on most of the lead vocals, sounds great, and the rest of the band was excellent also. (Mind you, like many of us, they're looking a little long in the tooth these days. From my angle, the guitarist Rich Williams was looking frighteningly similar to Stan Lee. Excelsior, baby!) They filled most of the show with songs from their two greatest albums, Leftoverture and Point of Know Return, occasionally sprinkling in the odd song from some of their other releases. So I had no complaints. (Well, not many, anyway. I'd have loved it if they'd have played "Can I Tell You" from their first album, which was the first Kansas song I ever heard. And and it would have been great if they'd played "With This Heart" from their album of last year The Prelude Implicit, instead of going with "Rhythm in the Spirit". But I'm really, really nitpicking here.

Anyway, they got a couple of well-deserved standing O's throughout the night, so all was good. So I finally saw Kansas, man. I ask you, can Styx be far behind?

I've got a few bloggy coming attractions for you of things heading your way in the very near future, including a review of the new Foster the People album, an atypically controversial column on music, politics and Juliana Hatfield, a possible write-up on Mamma Mia! at the Patchogue Theater, and (you read it here first) The return of The Gangsta Rabbi!