By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Ybor City Melon & Taco Fest, Centro Asturiano de Tampa, Tampa, Florida–August 13, 2017
Okay, first a disclaimer: Yes, “Kansas” still exists with 2 of 6 original members. But neither of those members is the original violinist, who pretty much defined the Kansas sound, and neither of them ever served as a lead vocalist during the eight years when Kansas rose to mega-stardom and sold millions of albums worldwide. So forgive me if I take a little creative license and say that Kansas’ music lives on at least as much through Robby Steinhardt and Stormbringer as through the current version. My opinion, and no legal weight to it.
Of course, even Robby doesn’t know how much the band affected my life. It’s interesting that the same words, from “Carry On Wayward Son,” led two people in entirely different directions.
“And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don’t know.” became something of a mantra for me. First, it kept me from ever making the claim; the wisest men I knew were those who admitted that they only knew a fraction of the sum of knowledge, and second it kept me from trusting those who claimed they had the answers to all of life’s issues – if only I’d adopt their teachings. Ironically, the man who wrote the words, Kerry Livgren, went on to accept the claims of self-identified wise men and left the band to most work in the Christian music industry, and teaches Sunday School now.
One reason often cited for the split of the original six members is Livgren’s increasing attempts to push the band into being a Christian band. That’s all ancient history now; after Kansas Robby formed Steinhardt-Moon with Stormbringer founder Rick Moon. Later, Robby was a member of Stormbringer from 1990-1996, so it’s not surprising that the band is family to him and he still uses them as his backup band when he performs.
Speaking of their role as a backing band, you might have seen Stormbringer – without knowing it. They’ve served as the band for Steve Augeri (of Journey), Mickey Thomas (of Jefferson Starship), Joe Lynn Turner (of Deep Purple), Jimi Jamison (of Survivor), Bobby Kimball (of Toto), Jon Anderson (of Yes), Mike Reno (of Loverboy), Mark Farner (of Grand Funk Railroad), John Cafferty (from the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers), Rick Derringer (of The Edgar Winter Group), Buck Dharma (of Blue Oyster Cult), and of course Robby Steinhardt. They have done so not just in their home state of Florida, but as far away as Bodokan, Japan!
Stormbringer consists of John Vasalakis – lead vocals, Rick Moon – lead guitar and vocals, Eddie Pecchio – bass guitar and vocals, John Zahner – keyboards, and vocals, and Dana Newcomer – drums. The band is know throughout the world for their ability to recreate the top rock anthems that most others won’t even attempt, and do it so well that many can’t tell the difference. That was the experience I had, as Robby blended seamlessly with the band to bring Kansas to the stage at Ybor City’s Watermelon and Taco Fest.
I feel fortunate that both Robby and Stormbringer are based in Tampa, because I get to see Stormbringer fairly often and Robby performs with them regularly. And they always put on a fantastic show, even when outside on a stage that blocked what little breeze we had. You might notice that John Vasalakis appears to be wearing a two-toned shirt – he didn’t arrive that way!
They performed a set by themselves with some Toto, Journey, Loverboy, then took a short break and brought Robby onstage to perform “Carry On Wayward Son.” “Dust In The Wind,” “Song for America,” “Point of No Return,” “People of the South Wind,” and more. Many in the crowd were so young it was probably the first time they ever heard Kansas’ music live.
But everybody was having a good times, there were plenty of food and drink vendors, a watermelon eating contest, and the day was capped off by a load of laughter. First, Artie Fletcher warmed up the crowd – okay, kept them warm, followed by the one person perfect for a watermelon festival: Gallagher! Yes, he smashed watermelon, and pineapple, and cottage cheese, and corn, and…he also brought the audience into the act, bringing over a dozen people onstage to try their luck at being a splatter master!
Find Robby’s info on his website.
Check out Stormbringer.
Laugh it up with Artie Fletcher.
Have a smashing good time with Gallagher.
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