Entertainment

After performing for decades, Kansas finds itself re-energized and on a roll

Kansas guitarist Rich Williams.
Kansas guitarist Rich Williams. Getty Images

A year after the release of 2009’s “There’s No Place Like Home,” Kansas guitarist Rich Williams claimed that his longtime band would never record another album.

However, the group, which has a deep canon of baroque rock, returned to the studio to record 2016’s “The Prelude Implicit.”

“It’s true that I did say that we would never make another record,” Williams says, calling from Charleston, S.C. “I learned to never say ‘never’ after that. I didn’t see the point in making another Kansas record when I told you that we were finished as a studio band, but things changed.”

There was reason to head back to the studio. Vocalist Steve Walsh retired in 2014 with Ronnie Platt replacing him as singer.

“With that, the atmosphere changed in the band,” Williams says. “We recorded ‘The Prelude Implicit’ with Ronnie, and we’re going to make another album. The creative process is there again. I’m having more fun than I’ve had in years since we’re creating new music and we’re having fun with the set lists.”

Kansas, which will perform Dec. 13 at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium, isn’t just playing the hits and familiar cuts at shows. The venerable rock band is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its classic “Leftoverture,” which will be performed in its entirety on stage. The group is also delivering some deep cuts.

“When we’re not playing the state fairs and casinos, we can slip in some songs that are buried in our canon,” Williams said. “That’s because we’re playing to Kansas fans in the auditoriums. They know all of our songs. If I look out and someone is eating funnel cake, I know to stick to the hits.”

Williams and drummer Phil Ehart are the only original members of the band, which formed in 1973. However, whenever the group performs in its home state of Kansas, keyboardist Kerry Livgren reunites with his former bandmates. Violinist Robby Steinhardt performs with Williams and Ehart when Kansas plays in Mississippi.

“There’s no bad blood between any of us and the guys who left the band,” Williams said. “We’re all on good terms. The other thing is that we were all very friendly.”

He said he’s seen other bands encounter bickering and in-fighting. But not Kansas.

“We never had problems like that,” he said. “I love being in this band.”

Williams said he’ll never stop playing with Kansas, which also includes violinist David Ragsdale, bassist Billy Greer, keyboardist David Manion and guitarist Zak Rizvi.

“I’m not big on regret,” Williams said. “That’s why I won’t leave. Everybody that has left this band has voiced regret. When I’m done with this band, you’ll see that I’ll have nothing more to give. I’ll give every ounce of my being to Kansas.”

The plan is to tour behind the 40th anniversary of “Point of Know Return” in 2018 and then release a new album in 2019.

“We’re completely booked for the next two years,” Williams said. “I don’t ever remember it being like this for our band. It’s a great situation to be in. I’m riding this out. I’m not just going to stay at home in my study. I love the camaraderie. I don’t want this to end.”

Details

Who: Kansas

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 13

Where: Memorial Auditorium at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh

Tickets: $69.65 and $99.65.

Info: 919-996-8700, dukeenergycenterraleigh.com

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