Nearly two years into his job as the lead singer of the legendary classic rock band Kansas, Ronnie Platt of Lombard is still pinching himself.
In July 2014, Platt, the former lead singer of the popular Chicago band Arra, was plucked from semi-obscurity and hired to replace Kansas singer and keyboardist Steve Walsh, who retired from the group.
Since then, Platt has played 120-plus shows with the band and toured extensively, and last September the lifelong Cubs fan pulled off the "Wrigley Field trifecta" when he threw out the first pitch, sang the National Anthem and sang "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch.
You can see the Platt-fronted Kansas when they perform an 8 p.m. show April 16 at North Central College's Pfeiffer Hall. Kansas band members include original drummer Phil Ehart, original guitarist Richard Williams, bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, keyboardist David Manion, violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale and Platt.
Platt says the year and a half since getting the call has been "surreal, fantastic, amazing" and "one gift after another."
Some of those gifts include playing the first show, the maiden voyage.
"Playing in my hometown as the lead singer of Kansas. Going to South America, playing in Brazil, playing in Chile," he said. "I haven't been to Europe yet but that's a regular stop for Kansas. Our schedule has been slammed. April is going to be crazy; we have 15 different shows in 15 different cities."
It hasn't been without its challenges, he said.
"Steve (Walsh) really set the bar high, no pun intended," he said. "You're not talking about songs that take a half-octave range. Some of the vocals that I have to tackle are in the stratosphere. But I love it. It gives me a chance to showboat a little."
The band just finished recording an album, its first studio album in 15 years, and he's on it.
"And being able to write — being a writer for Kansas," he said. "Wow. Just wow. Someone clubbed me over the head with a lucky stick. Last June we went in and recorded a song from an outside writer. I think Phil and Rich just wanted to see how the new makeup of the band would be, how the chemistry would be. I can't say enough about the work ethic of this band, it's just insane. We did this song back in June and it really worked out good."
So well in fact, that they decided to start writing new songs.
"We just started hashing out songs and throwing out ideas, and I happened to write lyrics for one song and Phil and Rich really liked them. One song turned into two songs, two songs turned into four songs, four songs turned into six songs," he said. "Very flattering and very exciting to be a part of the writing process on the first Kansas studio album in 15 years."
The album will be released in September, but sadly, Naperville audiences won't hear them yet.
"That was a tough debate with us and our record label, because of course we're anxious to play our new material and let people hear it, but in the world of YouTube and in the world of everybody has a camera on their phone, we didn't want to start playing songs too early and have people establish a mindset of what the record will be like. It's very diverse. There are a couple of pretty heavy rockers, a couple of moody songs, a couple songs that would be characterized as classic Kansas epics. So we're going to hold off a little while before we start playing some of the new stuff out."
So what will we hear?
"Classic Kansas, all the songs you expect to hear, some Kansas and some deep cut songs," he said. "Of course you're going to hear 'Carry on Wayward Son,' 'Point of No Return,' 'Dust in the Wind.' Those are givens. But we interchange our deep cuts … so it keeps it interesting for us and it keeps me on my toes, that's for sure. It keeps it interesting for the audience too. We have people that tell me, 'This is my eighth Kansas show this year.' When you reach 10, I'm coming to your house to vacuum."
Annie Alleman is a freelance writer.
When: 8 p.m. April 16
Where: North Central College's Pfeiffer Hall, 310 E. Benton Ave., Naperville
Information: 630-637-7469; Northcentralcollege.edu/show