New lead singer fronts Kansas at show in Colorado Springs

Kansas will perform at Pikes Peak Center Thursday. From left: Richard Williams, Billy Greer, Zak Rizvi, Phil Ehart, Ronnie Platt, David Manion and David Ragsdale. Photo credit: Michie Turpin

7:30 p.m. Thursday, Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave., $42-$62; 520-7469, ticketswest.com, pikespeak center.com

Ronnie Platt lost 8 pounds before his first concert as the new lead singer of Kansas.

"When it's your first show filling the shoes of the iconic Steve Walsh, a guy I only idolized my entire life," Platt says, "and now you're anticipating how you'll be accepted by the crowd - it's a little overwhelming."

Walsh, the progressive rock band's original vocalist, resigned in 2014, prompting an intense search to fill the slot. The band was familiar with longtime vocalist and keyboardist Platt, who sang lead vocals for Shooting Star, a group that opened for Kansas several times through the years. Serendipitously, he had the material down pat.

"I covered Kansas songs from day one," Platt says. "I think Kansas started my love for progressive rock. I took a liking to Kansas and bands like Yes, Genesis, Rush. It was the intensity and the depth."

The popularity of Kansas took root in the 1970s with still memorable singles "Carry on Wayward Son" in 1976 and "Dust in the Wind" in 1977. The band stayed on the Billboard charts for more than 200 weeks throughout the '70s and '80s and has sold more than 30 million records. But things weren't always smooth sailing. The decades after the '70s were rife with substance abuse, creative and religious conflicts and personnel changes. Only two of the band's original members remain - guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Ehart.

The group is set to release "The Prelude Implicit" next month, their first new studio album since "Somewhere to Elsewhere" in 2000.

"It's very progressive - or, as our fans call it, prog. This is a very prog record," said Ehart in an interview with The Boston Globe this year. "It is very complex, some of the most difficult tracks - maybe the most difficult tracks, in spots - that we've recorded. It's very lyrical, very melodic, but that's what we wanted to get back into: that progressive material that always set Kansas apart as an American band."

In interviews, the band has described its music by what it's not - boy meets girl love songs or happy-sounding songs.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a prog-rock band has got more depth in its lyric writing about deeper subject matters," Platt says. "I get asked a lot, what does this song mean? I ask, what does the song mean to you? You're right; there's no wrong interpretation. It's being a little mysterious and having an element of elusiveness. Mystery inspires more thought - that's part of the element of prog music."

JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM

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