Two For The Show
Kansas fans have a reason to rejoice: Legacy has issued a new and expanded version of the band’s classic live album, Two For The Show. It includes a bunch of unreleased tracks and a colorful booklet with liner notes written by Jeb Wright from Classic Rock Revisited. Encompassing shows from three different tours in the years 1977 and 1978, Two For The Show is the definitive live chronicle of this amazing band from the heartland.
This is a piecemeal collection, meaning it’s not one complete show all the way through. Since Kansas went out of their way not to overdub anything here, we still get the performances from a tighter-than-tight POV. There is very little ambient crowd noise, cheering, and what clapping there is, is at the beginning or end of the tunes. The first CD takes off with “Song For America,” “Point of No Return,” “Paradox” and “Icarus-Born On The Wings Of Steel” — all proficiently played (especially the drumming of Phil Ehart on the opener). But it all really kicks in with the classic “Portrait (He Knew)” and “Carry On Wayward Son.” What becomes evident even this early on, beyond the band’s pure muscle as a unit, is just how integral Robbie Steinhardt’s voice was to the Kansas sound. To hear him and vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh harmonize together is a special treat.
There follows the requisite “Dust In the Wind,” a near perfect rendition of this huge Kansas hit. From there, some fine piano playing from Walsh on “Lonely Wind,” the blistering guitars on “Mysteries And Mayhem,” some excellent Dave Hope bass playing and Steinhart’s violin on “Excerpt From Lamplight Symphony,” “The Wall” (my personal favorite tune), and the magnum opus, “Magnum Opus.”
The second disc features 11 previously unreleased tracks. From “Hopelessly Human” (Steinhardt’s vocals are perfect) to some out and out rocking on “Child Of Innocence,” the bluesy “Lonely Street,” and the swing and sway of “Miracles Out Of Nowhere” — the really great thing about this second CD is it feels as if we are listening to a completely different album with a marginally better mix, crowd interaction and an overall cleaner blend of the instruments. Highlights here (and I really hate that all this great stuff wasn’t included on the original album) have to be “Cheyenne Anthem,” “Sparks Of The Tempest,” “Down The Road” and “Closet Chronicles” with Walsh’s voice blasting through the cacophony. It’s been said that “Chronicles” is the cornerstone of this second CD and I agree.
Though Kerry Livgren has returned to Kansas on occasion to record and Steinhardt has been in and out — Walsh, Ehart and Rich Williams keep the group going. But it was in the late 70s that Kansas was operating at full throttle. Two For The Show is a great historic record of one of the few 'true' American progressive rock bands at a special time in their illustrious career — a worthy three decade anniversary release giving us all the extras to marvel over alongside the original.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.