at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), Durham, NC, USA, November 4, 2023

KANSAS (Live at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), Durham, NC, USA, November 4, 2023)
Photo: Scott Jeslis

Television outlets are pretty good at covering mainstream bands, and artists, with impressive longevity including The Rolling Stones, Elton John, and Paul McCartney, to name a few, and rightly so. One that seems to escape some attention is the progressive rock band Kansas the “garage band” from Topeka who released their debut album in 1974 and have since gone on to sell more than 30 million albums worldwide. The band is proudly celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023 and the fans are showing their appreciation! What started out as a tour of 50 select North American cities has now been extended into next year due to “brisk ticket sales and numerous sellouts”.

On this night they played to a nearly sold-out crowd at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) in Durham North Carolina. In this day and age there are so many beloved bands from yesteryear reuniting and touring or splitting into two groups due to irreconcilable differences. Many of those only contain one original member. Thankfully, Kansas is still touring in this day and age with three long-standing members, two of them original; Billy Greer (bass), Richard Williams (guitar), and Phil Ehart (drums).

After 50+ years gone are those days of band members running around the stage and striking Herculian poses. Given the median age of the crowd in attendance, it wasn’t missed and didn’t seem to have a negative effect on the crowd’s reception. Everyone was too busy reveling in a two-hour performance of Kansas’ hits, classics, and some deep cuts. Tonight’s setlist almost played out like The Best Of Kansas album released in 1984. The expected favorites were in attendance as well as some surprises.

Regardless of anyone’s age, the band can still play with fire and precision. During the “progressive rock interludes” within massive songs like “Song For America” and “Icarus: Borne on Wings of Steel” the band was tight as hell! During these moments Billy Greer’s bass came through the mix with clarity and determination that just helped exude a heavy and staunch sound.

It was so wonderful to hear a violin in a live setting once again which brings us to the “new guy”, violinist/guitarist Joe Deninzon who was announced in May of 2023 as succeeding the departed David Ragsdale. He’s been hailed by fellow critics as “The Jimi Hendrix of the Violin,” because of his innovative style on his “Viper” seven-string electric violin. And this showed brightly on this night as he played an energetic and entertaining set.

Kansas, Live at DPAC, November 4, 2023
Photo: Scott Jeslis

Vocalist Ronnie Platt also deserves kudos as he is as remarkably close to sounding like Steve Walsh as anyone can. Ronnie had no problem taking command of the vocals on tracks like “Dust In The Wind”, an acoustic version of “People Of The South Wind” and “Hold On”.

Drum duty for the first half of the lengthy set was played by Kansas’ long-time drum tech, Eric Holmquist, as Phil Ehart is recovering from an arm injury sustained late last year. Eric was a competent fill-in for the first thirteen songs at which point Phil joined the band for “Song For America” and to close out the night.

When band introductions were made the fans in attendance did not hold back on showing their appreciation for the three long-standing members, especially guitarist Richard Williams who appeared to get a bit emotional with the signs of crowd adoration, many of whom showed it with a standing ovation.

It was refreshing to see the band do things like dedicate “Down The Road” to original violinist Robby Steinhardt who passed away in 2021. “Down The Road” was on the album “Song For America” and was a song that Robby sang. Also, marks of professionalism were nods to former original members Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh. It was also nice to not see any overindulgent “solos” of any nature! Bassist Billy Greer acted as an MC between most of the songs as he peppered song titles with occasional anecdotes. This night was focused on being a celebration of the band and their fans!

If you’ve never seen Kansas live or have dismissed them because they don’t have all their original members in attendance you’d be doing yourself a grave injustice. If you take it upon yourself to try to attend one of these current live shows you’ll be rewarded with an incredible, comfortable, familiar performance! Much like having a whiskey with a friend while spinning through your Kansas vinyl records!

Setlist at Durham Performing Arts Center, Durham, NC, USA

Find out more about Kansas at their website!


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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