Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kansas and the Little River Band Rock at Fun ‘N Sun Fest

Kansas Guitarist Richard Williams and Author Ray Shasho


By Ray Shasho

The Fun 'N Sun Festival at Coachman Park in Clearwater celebrated its 58th consecutive year with two Classic Rock Heavyweights presented by Q105. It was just another perfect day in paradise shared with the Australian formed Little River Band and Don Kirshner protégé Kansas.

Thousands gathered to celebrate a day in the sun with Classic Rock & Roll.  The atmosphere was definitely laid back. It almost felt like a day at the beach. Everyone brought their chairs and blankets. But if you didn’t bring a chair along, no problem, you could rent one for just five bucks.

The gates opened at 1:30 and there were plenty of activities, food, drink, and spirits to keep everyone occupied till Showtime. At 4:20 the crowd was entertained by a Journey tribute band called Departure. The band was tight and reminisced back to the good old days of charismatic lead singer Steve Perry.

At 6:00, the sun worshippers seemed to come alive and began to revel with the introduction of the Little River Band. Although the group has had numerous personnel changes over the years, the current touring version of the Little River Band sounded much like the original group of yesteryear. The band was originally formed in Melbourne Australia in 1975.

There were no original members in the current lineup, and the Aussie’s have been replaced with Americans. Nevertheless, the band belted out all of the trademark classic hits. Tunes like “Cool Change” a song written by original member Glenn Shorrock.

The Little River Band name was lost to Stephen Housden due to a legal mishap in 1997. Three of the original members reformed under the name Birtles Shorrock Goble or BSG.
Housden left the touring band in 2006 but maintained the rights to the name.

Other great songs played to the huge Clearwater crowd were, “Happy Anniversary,” “Reminiscing,” “Lady,” “Help Is On Its Way” “Take It Easy On Me,” “Night Owl” and their finale crowd pleaser “Lonesome Loser.”

The Little River Band trademark has sold over 25 million records worldwide and achieved gold, platinum and multi-platinum album awards.

At 7:50 Kansas took the stage with original members- lead vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh, Richard Williams on lead guitar and Phil Ehart on drums. Other members of the band are David Ragsdale on violin and guitar, and Billy Greer on Bass.

Kansas was phenomenal tonight. The group began its set with “Magnus Opus” from the Leftoverture album. It was truly amazing to hear the power and strength of the song reverberate through the huge stage speakers- as if there were a full orchestra of 100-players hiding behind them. The band immediately proceeded with “Musicatto” from the Power album.

Then the band changed direction a bit and played their commercially successful hit “Point Of Know Return” from their 1977 release. The song was succeeded by the complex arrangements of “Song for America.”

“Ghosts/Rainmaker” and “Hold/On” were played next.

Then Richard Williams started to strum gently on his acoustic guitar and Steve Walsh’s haunting vocals began to sing “Dust in the Wind” added by David Ragsdale’s heartfelt violin performance. The crowd was immediately transformed back to their youth and simpler times. The song peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977.

Next, the band dug deeper into the human soul with “The Wall” another song from the Leftoverture album. Their mix of music for the evening was exceptional.

As always, Kansas delivered messages of life’s trials and tribulations. Their next selections for the evening were “Cheyenne Anthem” and “Miracles Out Of Nowhere” from Leftoverture.

The evening wound down with the prevailing “Icarus” from the Masque album and “Portrait (He Knew)” from Point Of Know Return.

The musical genius of Kansas was apparent throughout their entire set. Kansas returned to the stage after a thunderous ovation from the Clearwater crowd.

Both The Little River Band and Kansas dedicated songs to all of our troops serving around the world. Kansas dedicated their encore song “Fight Fire With Fire” from their album Drastic Measures to our troops.

Then Kansas played the final song of the night. A powerful and electrifying rendition of their 1976  progressive rock mega hit “Carry On Wayward Son” a hard-driven rock song that will perpetually be associated as one of  Classic Rock’s greatest tunes.

It was a great day for all in Clearwater at the Fun ‘N Sun Fest.

I’d like to thank the wonderful event staff at Coachman Park for their hospitality and especially Krystal Schmidt.

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