Device Voice Drum is a feast for the eyes and ears — especially if you follow Kansas. Filmed within the intimate confines of EarthLink Live in Atlanta, Georgia, the DVD — an acronym for the title, as well as the format — is a comprehensive performance piece the band obviously went to great lengths to capture. For one, it's alternatively shot with 16mm film cameras and digital video cameras — giving it an almost cinematic quality. Then there are the snippets of animation from Wayne Lytle and Animusic — real visual candy set to samples, intros and Kansas music. At the heart of it all is vocalist and keyboardist Steve Walsh, vocalist and violinist Robby Steinhardt, guitarist Richard Williams, bassist Billy Greer and drummer Phil Ehart. Together, these heartland rockers prove once and for all they are high caliber players. While they lay it on rather thick during the bonus interviews (and who doesn't), their tasty variety of melodic progressive rock has rarely strayed from its course. After 30 years, it's time to celebrate in style.
For all their platinum success and invariable lulls, Kansas interact like a well-oiled machine. Walsh's voice hangs gloriously high with nary a sour note. How he plays the keyboards with such conviction and belts it out skyward is a modern marvel. Williams is equally adept on guitar, of which he is now the one and only in Kansas. It's almost like having Kerry Livgren, Steve Morse or David Ragsdale wouldn't make much of a difference because Williams handles each and every part with assured reverence and precision. On the other hand, having Steinhardt back in the line-up has definitely opened up a flurry of possibilities. His violin playing holds a unique and prominent place in the Kansas repertoire and his singing gainfully complements Walsh's. On a stage minimally surrounded with odd shaped props and bathing in lasers, Kansas swing through a healthy chunk of classics and obscure nuggets before a packed house of Wheatheads from around the world. After they bust open with the instrumental "Belexes" from the band's 1974 self-titled debut, they fall into a tight and fast rendition of "Icarus II" (which may or may not be a sequel to "Icarus" from 1975's Masque) from their last studio album, 2000's Somewhere To Elsewhere. It stands head and shoulders among the older selections as a strong representation of the future.
Pulling out plums like "Song For America" and "The Wall" only validates their cause. Then there are the classy touches like the 60 voices of the New Advent Choir solemnly backing Walsh as he leads them through a feisty and spirited reading of "The Preacher," a rarely performed gem from 1988's highly under-rated In The Spirit Of Things. The obligatory and all acoustic "Dust In The Wind" is spruced up nicely with a string quartet. Even the cliché shot of the audience thrusting their lighters in the air gives the whole clip a warm and fuzzy feeling. The majestic "Cheyenne Anthem" marches mightily forward before the bigger hits come rolling in. During "Miracles Out Of Nowhere," a small splash of animation gives it a satisfying effect. "Point Of No Return" and "Portrait" brave the momentum, while "Fight Fire With Fire" and "Play The Game Tonight," two early 80s popsters that kept the flame alive for a time, dutifully round out the evening. "Carry On Wayward Son," of course, roars out of the gate as the lone encore. With the additional bonuses like a full discography and a short documentary of the making of the DVD, Device Voice Drum, which is also available as a CD, is an entertaining and complete package even the most casual of fans will savor.
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