Kansas – Point of Know Return Live & Beyond (Live Album Review)

live and beyond Album Cover 100

Review of Kansas – ‘Point of Know Return Live & Beyond’ released on May 28, 2021.

by Geoff Bailie

There is no set path for the founding fathers of prog when it comes to activity in the 21st century. Some have decided to simply stop; others have carried on meeting the demand for live appearances without new studio material; and others still have pursued live and studio activity. You could argue that Kansas have tried all three: the pause after 1983’s Drastic Measures; the years following 2000’s Somewhere To Elsewhere; and the studio and live re-birth that began with 2016’s The Prelude Implicit and was followed by 2020’s The Absence of Presence. In my opinion, and I know many share it, those two studio albums did much to consolidate the standing of the band in its current incarnation, and produced two records capable of holding their own against the core catalogue.

Live, the band have toured, understandably theming each tour around a classic album. While that gives an audience a familiar touch point, it also can keep things fresh for the band as they have to explore the deeper cuts from that era. Like 2017’s Leftoverture Live & Beyond, the new live release, Point of Know Return Live & Beyond takes a similar form: disc 1 being a selection of catalogue tracks with disc 2 being the classic album played in order. Like the first live release of the new line up, POKR Live & Beyond has a first disc which doesn’t exactly shout out “greatest hits” – and for long time fans, that is a good thing. Kicking off with a track from 1995’s Freaks of Nature, the Kerry Livgren penned “Cold Grey Morning” feels like a mission statement in itself (the band saying: you name it, we can play it), as they flip back 10 years for a superb version of Masque’s “Two Cents Worth.” While great renditions of “The Wall” and “Song For America” perhaps lull you into comfortable conformity, The Prelude Implicit’s track “Summer” shows that the recent material can hold its own. I have to admit being open mouthed upon hearing the first two tracks from Side 2 of my cassette of the Power album (the first Kansas album I owned), “Musicatto” and “Taking In The View” as part of this live set. It’s often overlooked by many that the Steve Morse/ Steve Walsh partnership produced some incredible moments, some of which are hidden within the then contemporary production. The new line up turbo charges these two songs, with guitarist Zak Ritzvi nailing the guitar parts and the Ehart / Greer rhythm section driving the band through Musicatto’s time signature shifts. “Taking In The View” is beautifully presented here and I’m sure will point some listeners back to the high points of those albums, before a storming “Miracles Out of Nowhere” closes disc 1. As an 8 track opening set, with some crazy deep cuts, it’s a fantastic listen.

Disc 2 has the Point of Know Return album presented in full, in sequence, covering those tracks regularly played throughout the band’s history (such as “Portrait,” “Dust in the Wind” and the title track), along with the less routined, including a live album debuts for “The Spider” and “Lightning’s Hand.” Aging rockers, playing a 44 year old album? Not in the least – this performance is delivered with the pioneer spirit of the 1970s band, the tightness of the well-oiled current line up, and a raw edge that conveys the energy of music played in the moment. A great example of this is the version of “Sparks of the Tempest.” The combination of the twin guitars, some light percussion and the pure funk of the rhythm section and synth gets an electric shock when Ronnie Platt takes up the chorus vocal part, high in his range but crystal clear.

The set proper closes out with, of course, “Carry On Wayward Son,” faithful to the original but some cool moments where the band stretch out a bit.

Presented as an encore, the three songs that close CD 2 were actually the opening acoustic set from this tour, and they are a fitting finale. Tom Brislin shows his prowess on an insane piano break during “People of the South Wind,” while “Refugee” from The Prelude Implicit shows how the material this current line up is producing can hold its head high in the presence of such classic tracks. A fitting ending is “Lonely Wind” from the band’s debut album. While the Livgren classics define the band’s greatest hits list, this Steve Walsh written tune is, perhaps, an overlooked classic, expertly performed. In the way that Ronnie Platt salutes Walsh in his intro to the track, Platt himself deserves significant kudos for how he took the baton and storms down the track on this live album.

As a demonstration of live prowess, a snapshot band of enviable skills and a tour through the catalogue of one of prog’s finest bands, this live set is a “must have” (something which can’t be said for all live albums!). They passed the point of no/ know return many years ago, but it’s fantastic to see the revitalization they’ve experienced.

Released on May 28th, 2001 on InsideOutMusic

Point of Know Return Live & Beyond Track Listing:
1.) Cold Grey Morning
2.) Two Cents Worth
3.) The Wall
4.) Song for America
5.) Summer
6.) Musicatto
7.) Taking in the View
8.) Miracles Out of Nowhere
9.) Point of Know Return
10.) Paradox
11.) The Spider
12.) Portrait (He Knew)
13.) Closet Chronicles
14.) Lightning’s Hand
15.) Dust in the Wind
16.) Sparks of the Tempest
17.) Nobody’s Home
18.) Hopelessly Human
19.) Carry On Wayward Son
20.) People of the South Wind
21.) Refugee
22.) Lonely Wind

https://kansas.lnk.to/PointofKnowReturn-LiveBeyond

1 comment

  • Ronnie Platt just doesn’t do it for me. He seems like a square peg in an octagonal hole. His voice is thin and nasal and that, along with his incessant jazz hands and generally awkward stage moves ruin the band, IMO. What a shame, as the rest of the guys are killing. Jerome Mazza or Ted Leonard would have been much stronger choices. It seems like Phil and Rich were a bit hasty in their decision to hire Platt, but, hey, it’s their band – they can do what they want. I won’t spend my money on this.

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