by Connor Shelton
Kansas is without question, America’s premier prog-rock band. 30 million albums sold, multiple crossover hits, and a body of work that stands up against their European peers. The current iteration of the group is set to hit the road for their 50th anniversary on June 2, and will no doubt cover a multitude of tracks from their storied discography. Even with two hours of time though, the band can’t cover everything, and a number of songs will be prioritized to keep the casual fans at bay. It’s understandable, but if Kansas weren’t obligated to do “Carry On” and “Dust in the Wind,” these are the tracks we’d love to see them dust off.
10. The Pilgrimage
Kansas has done an admirable job of including material from their debut album in their 21st century setlists. “Journey From Mariabronn” has been an on and off staple since the 1990s while “Belexes,” “Lonely Wind,” and “Can I Tell You” have also received substantial rotation in their live act. Any of those tracks could end up being played on tour. Of the album’s other four tracks, there’s still slim chances they might be dusted off given their status as fan favorites, save for “The Pilgrimage.” The song’s country-esque flavor might not be to everyone’s liking, but it’d be a nice surprise as an opener given the track’s delicate intro and lyrics about music bringing people together. More importantly, “The Pilgrimage” would give the band plenty of room to improv during the solos, which remain some of the hottest in Kansas’s discography.
Outside of “Play the Game Tonight,” very little of 1982’s Vinyl Confessions has shown up in concert after the album’s initial tour. Whether it be the more overt Christian lyrics or the simple compositions, the band hasn’t been too keen on reviving the album’s deep cuts. These factors can be a hindrance for some fans, but on “Windows,” they don’t seem to be an issue. The track, despite its short length, features some slick syncopation and flashes of 5/4 while the lyrics take a more philosophical bent, meaning it would slip in nicely with Kansas’s more well-known material.
Drastic Measures is the red headed stepchild of Kansas albums. It was the first of only three studio efforts to lack the band’s signature violin, barely featured any compositions from Kerry Livgren, and saw the group almost completely abandon their prog credentials in favor of milquetoast arena rock. These facts are key to understanding why the band only ever performs the tight “Fight Fire With Fire” on tour, yet there are several other cuts worthy of being recognized in the Kansas canon. “Mainstream” is perhaps the most striking song from the album given its mechanized sheen and biting commentary about record label expectations (and micromanagement). It’s a message that resonates just as much now as it did back then, given the issues surrounding Ticket Master, streaming revenue, and the reality of labels demanding artists to record songs for TikTok.
7. When the World Was Young
For a band celebrating its 50th anniversary, it would only be fitting if they performed a song about aging and nostalgia. Admittedly, Kansas has several songs from their catalogue that touch on those topics, most of which are more likely to be played live, but there’s something about this rollicking number from Somewhere to Elsewhere that feels especially potent. Maybe it’s the jaded tone and sense of defiance or the biting vocal delivery. Whatever the reason, the track has a certain energy that would make its performance almost celebratory in a live context.
6. No One Together
Kansas are by no means lacking when it comes to labyrinthian epics. There’s usually at least one on every album, yet despite this ratio, the band almost exclusively goes for a select few from their early years when touring. “No One Together” is not one of the regulars in rotation, but it would be sheer ecstasy to hear Ronnie Platt and Billy Greer trade vocals on this gargantuan number which deftly balances technical pomp with delicious hooks.
5. Angels Have Fallen
Monolith is easily the least represented album from Kansas’s first decade as a band. Of the LP’s eight tracks, only three have been performed on a semi-regular basis since 1979, and they remain the most likely cuts to be revived on the Another Fork in the Road tour. They’re all solid tracks but given the propensity to do “People of the South Wind” in particular, it might be nice to swap it out with “Angels Have Fallen.” The latter composition is a bit melodramatic, but the sweeping nature of the ballad is something the band has shown themselves to be more than capable of executing with aplomb.
4. Peaceful and Warm
The inclusion of “Cold Grey Morning” into Kansas’s recent tours has been much appreciated by fans of 1995’s Freaks of Nature but just as spectacular would be the incorporation of “Peaceful and Warm” into the acoustic set. Its somber, contemplative mood definitely makes the ballad a hard sell compared to more direct ear worms like “People of the South Wind” and “Hold On,” but such a change of pace could work to give it and the other songs that much more punch. Not to mention, the song’s conclusion would be the perfect transition into their electric set given its sweeping orchestration.
3. The Devil Game
For a track that features on The Best of Kansas, it might come as a shock to learn that “The Devil Game” hasn’t been performed since 1975 (as far as records indicate). Perhaps it’s because the band prefers the spooky atmosphere of “Mysteries and Mayhem,” but a swap would be much welcome. The song offers a deft balance of heavy riffage and intricate rhythms that would feel right at home next to “Belexes” or “Carry On Wayward Son.”
Only two songs from the rather underrated Somewhere to Elsewhere have been performed by Kansas in the past decade, “Icarus II” and “The Coming Dawn.” That makes the rest of the album fair game for this list, and “Myriad” might be the worthiest for inclusion. Its complex time signatures and nearly nine-minute runtime would prove a challenge for the band given their age, but the rich tapestry of vocals and eccentric keyboard solos would make it an absolute blast to witness live.
1. All the World
Perhaps it’s naïveté on this writer’s part, but there’s a sense that Kansas might finally perform “The Pinnacle” in full given how beloved the composition is among fans (and because of how unprecedented the inclusion of “Two Cents Worth” was on the last tour cycle). “All the World” by comparison, remains less likely to be included in the band’s setlist. For all we know, the song hasn’t been played in concert since 1976, which is a shame. Musically, it’s just as ripe as the band’s other 7 plus minute epics with its delicate verse, dramatic bridge, and touching message of harmony. More importantly, it would act as a fitting tribute to former member Robby Steinhardt, who co-wrote the track and passed away back in 2020.
KANSAS 50th ANNIVERSARY TOUR – ANOTHER FORK IN THE ROAD CONFIRMED DATES*:
DATE CITY VENUE
June 2, 2023 Pittsburgh, PA Benedum Center for the Performing Arts
June 3, 2023 Baltimore, MD The Lyric Baltimore
June 9, 2023 Glenside, PA Keswick Theatre
June 10, 2023 Glenside, PA Keswick Theatre
June 16, 2023 Fort Wayne, IN Embassy Theatre
June 17, 2023 Detroit, MI Fisher Theatre
June 29, 2023 Toronto, ON Massey Hall
July 1, 2023 Rochester, NY Kodak Center
July 7, 2023 Cincinnati, OH Taft Theatre
July 8, 2023 Indianapolis, IN Clowes Memorial Hall
July 14, 2023 Minneapolis, MN State Theatre
July 15, 2023 Chicago, IL The Chicago Theatre
July 21, 2023 Wausau, WI The Grand Theater
July 22, 2023 Milwaukee, WI The Riverside Theater
July 27, 2023 Kansas City, MO The Midland Theatre
July 29, 2023 St. Louis, MO The Fabulous Fox Theatre
August 4, 2023 Des Moines, IA Hoyt Sherman Place
August 5, 2023 Omaha, NE Orpheum Theater
August 18, 2023 Knoxville, TN Tennessee Theatre
August 19, 2023 Nashville, TN Ryman Auditorium
August 25, 2023 Denver, CO The Paramount Theatre
August 26, 2023 Salt Lake City, UT Eccles Theater
September 6, 2023 Vancouver, BC Queen Elizabeth Theatre
September 8, 2023 Seattle, WA The Paramount Theater
September 9, 2023 Portland, OR Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
September 12, 2023 Boise, ID Morrison Center for the Performing Arts
September 14, 2023 San Francisco, CA Golden Gate Theatre
September 16, 2023 Los Angeles, CA The Orpheum Theatre
September 17, 2023 San Diego, CA Balboa Theatre
September 20, 2023 To Be Announced
September 22, 2023 Albuquerque, NM Kiva Auditorium
September 24, 2023 El Paso, TX The Plaza Theatre
October 12, 2023 Worcester, MA The Hanover Theatre
October 13, 2023 Brookville, NY Tilles Center for the Performing Arts
October 20, 2023 San Antonio, TX Tobin Center for the Performing Arts
October 21, 2023 Sugar Land, TX Smart Financial Centre at Sugar Land
October 26, 2023 Huntsville, AL Von Braun Center – Mark C. Smith Concert Hall
October 27, 2023 Memphis, TN Orpheum Theatre
November 3, 2023 Charlotte, NC Ovens Auditorium
November 4, 2023 Durham, NC Durham Performing Arts Center
December 1, 2023 Savannah, GA Johnny Mercer Theatre
December 2, 2023 Atlanta, GA Fox Theatre
January 12, 2024 Jacksonville, FL Florida Theatre
January 13, 2024 North Charleston, SC North Charleston Performing Arts Center
January 19, 2024 Fort Myers, FL Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
January 20, 2024 Clearwater, FL Ruth Eckerd Hall
January 27, 2024 Melbourne, FL Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts
January 28, 2024 Fort Lauderdale, FL Broward Center for the Performing Arts