Homer's Travels: Music: Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Music: Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner

Just over a week ago, Omaha held their annual, free, Memorial Park concert.  This concert series, sponsored by a big bank and entering it's 20th year, is one of the best every year.  This year the bank held an on-line poll and let the people choose who would perform.  The result, a series of great late 70s, early 80s bands.

The 2008 concert was stormed out.  Last year I went and, despite the oven-like heat and humidity, enjoyed the Guess Who and Grand Funk.  The Wife wasn't much a fan of these bands and I ended up alone.  This year the bands were much more to her liking and she joined me.  It also helps that the weather was cooler and the overcast skies kept the temperatures down and the Sun out of our eyes.

The first up was Kansas.  Kansas got me through part of my High School years and the first semester of my Freshman year in college.  I wore out the records and tapes.  I remember studying in the memorial union with them blasting from my Walkman (That may explain the ringing in my ear).   I always thought of their music as epic rock.  It had a depth, a complexity, and a power that moved me.  As you can expect, my expectations were highest for them, my expectations were probably too high to meet, and they didn't quite make it.  The music was good.  They picked some of the best songs but the vocals were off.  I think this was probably due to the fact that only two or three performers were from the original 70s band.  The other members joined in the 80s when Kansas changed, became more commercial, and faded away.

Kansas was followed by Styx.  They started with a medley of some of their stuff which was both original and cheesy.  Reminded me of some bad Andy William's show medley.  After that they played music like they were supposed to - complete songs.  I liked their music, despite the medley faux pax, and I enjoyed their set.  Their sound was spot on.  The Wife's comment about them was that all their on-stage movements were cheesy 70s-80s band moves.  I wasn't bothered by this but she's right.  What I did  find fascinating was how relevant some of their songs were today.  Just listen to the lyrics of "Blue Collar Man".  I guess it makes sense as Styx was writing songs during the Carter malaise and we are now slogging through the Bush-Obama malaise.

The concert was capped off by Foreigner.  My expectations for them were the lowest but they managed to bring me around and I enjoyed their set.  They were the only band of the three that played new stuff.  The crowd was polite but you could tell that the new stuff wasn't what most of the crowd were there for.  One cool thing was when Central High School's Vocal Jazz Ensemble (Omaha Jazz Central Station) joined the band in singing "I Want To Know What Love Is."  The Jazz Ensemble had won a VH1 Save the Music competition.  Along with the chance to perform with Foreigner, Central High School also received funding for their music program.

The night ended with a fireworks show, something Omaha really knows how to do well.  None of this 30 minutes of Pwew ... Boom.  Oh No.  They give you 10 minutes of Oh My God BOOM BOOM BOOM!!!  Very impressive.

This year's concert had record attendance.  It was so big that a jumbotron was set up to allow more people to enjoy the concert.  The final total attendance has been estimated to be around 80,000.  The crowd left a lot of trash behind.  I love this quote from a boy scout volunteering for the cleanup effort:
"Last year it was a needle and a bag of marijuana," the 14-year-old from Boy Scout Troop 42 said. "This year it's ... condoms and margarita mix."
It was a fun time.  We enjoyed the trip back to the 70s - 80s.  It seems a lot of our concerts have been classic bands lately.  Pictures are here.

One last thing, I think all band lead vocalists should learn to sign.  That way this poor lady wouldn't have had to sign the entire concert.


  1. HD, you have GOT to stop leaving your margarita mixes behind for the youngins to find...

  2. GH: Yeah, like there would be any margarita mix left.