Grace Slick - vocals, organ; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums; Guest: Peter Kaukonen - guitar
This set ended the final show of a three-day run featuring Jefferson Airplane opening and closing shows, with sets by blues legends John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed in between. After two wild nights at Winterland, the run ended with a much smaller Fillmore Auditorium performance on Sunday afternoon.
Immediately apparent here is that the Jefferson Airplane had progressed remarkably over the course of a few months. Their sound was evolving and becoming more distinctive. They sound much less like the folk-pop oriented band of 1966 and are becoming more aggressive. They had completed sessions for Surrealistic Pillow and more of that material was firmly in place in the live repertoire.
Grace Slick was firmly on board by this point. Her presence was unquestionably a strong element in the change in sound, but it was the core musicians, Kantner, Kaukonen, Casady, and Dryden, that were strengthening the band's sound. Paul was becoming a more aggressive rhythm guitar player, and in the process was freeing up Kaukonen, allowing him to really cut loose and develop. However, a significant amount of credit goes to the rhythm section of Casady and Dryden. They were truly developing at an astonishing rate, becoming the most unique and creative backbone of any of the San Francisco bands.
This second set still features some of the first album material, such as the two covers, "Let's Get Together" and "Tobacco Road," as well as the original, "Don't Slip Away"; but the Surrealistic Pillow material and several new improvisational vehicles begin to dominate the set. The set kicks off with Fred Neil's "Other Side Of This Life," a permanent staple of the band's live repertoire. The more exploratory approach is immediately apparent here as the core musicians extend the opening jam, and compared to just a few months earlier, the song has nearly doubled in length.
The Surrealistic Pillow material is well represented by the delicate "Today" and the tight, rip-roaring versions of "Plastic Fantastic Lover" and "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds." The latter two stick close to the album arrangements, but with a touch of rawness and additional intensity. Although incomplete, the most intriguing piece here is the unreleased "Thing." Conceived by Kaukonen, this piece was intentionally intended as a free-form improvisational vehicle. Unlike many of the other instrumental jams from this era, this one does not sound like an early form of Hot Tuna. This is prototype psychedelic jamming at its best, with everyone contributing—even Grace Slick, who uncharacteristically plays organ here. Also of note is the addition of Kaukonen's brother, Peter Kaukonen, who adds additional lead guitar.
The Airplane's music was clearly becoming more heady, both lyrically and musically. These March 1967 sets capture the band at perhaps their happiest time as a unit, with everyone contributing. Over the course of the next few months, the group would become international stars and their lives would change forever, becoming infinitely more complicated.
Written by Alan Bershaw