Celebrating 40 years as a band, legendary US progressive rock band KANSAS is taking a break from their regular touring schedule to say “thank you” to their legions of loyal “Wheatheads” with a once-in-a-lifetime fan appreciation concert scheduled for August 17th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Classic Rock Revisited's Jeb Wright spoke with Kansas guitarist Rich Williams, who discusses the show, among other topics. An excerpt follows:
Q: Tell me how the idea to go back to where you first headlined a show became the theme for the 40th Anniversary.
A: "We wanted to make it one event and do something different on that night. We chose Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania because we have a lot of history there. When we couldn’t get a gig anywhere, we were headlining in Pennsylvania. In those days, you didn’t have the media that we have now. We wouldn’t know how many people were there until we arrived.
We played a show at The Stanley Theater – which is where we are playing the anniversary show. I don’t know what they call the place now, because who remembers the new names of these great old places? The promoter, Rich Engler, who we have done many shows with since, brought in another band; I think it was STYX, but I’m not sure. We were to be the opening act for the show and someone in the headliner got sick and he was going to cancel. As it turned out, nobody wanted their money back. We were told people still wanted the show and that they wanted us to play.
We showed up and the place was sold out; we were like THE BEATLES when we showed up for that gig. The biggest surprise was just being there and walking out and playing to this crowd that were, instead of going, “Who is that?” and yelling for the headliner, were there to see us and us alone. It was quite a moment. It was our first headlining gig. There was no way that we knew that or planned it. We had come on to the scene quickly through the grapevine and through the college kid’s word of mouth, but we had no way of knowing that. It really was our first gig where we got on the map that way."
Q: What album were you supporting?
A: "This was our first album. We were just going out and opening for whoever we could. This night was our sudden leap from a Kansas bar band to the big time.
We have since played the big arenas in Pittsburgh. We played this place there that had a dome that opened up. We sold out two shows there and broke ELVIS PRESLEY’s record. We played at the Syria Masque, which was one of the coolest places you could play. That town has been our Ground Zero and the heart of Kansas fans has always been in Pittsburgh."
Q: All six original Kansas members will be in attendance. However, there are some health issues with Kerry and Robby. Will they be able to play?
A: "We hope that Kerry and Robby can be more of a part of the performing, but there are just too many physical inabilities, health wise. Kerry had a stroke and Robby has had a series of mini-strokes. They would do it all if they could. They will be there and they will be a part of it. They will be part of the Meet & Greet and part of the signing after the show, as far as they are able to do so. They will be onstage with us at times; that is the plan now unless something happens. Everybody’s flights are already booked."
Q: Will the concert be recorded?
A: "We are not filming this. I am sure there will be plenty of it on YouTube. This day and age I can just walk onstage and fart and it ends up on YouTube. So, with YouTube, the show will be out there, but we are not going to record it professionally."
Read the full interview at Classic Rock Revisited