Grace Slick - vocals, organ; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
In these early days promoting events at the Fillmore Auditorium, Bill Graham often took the unique approach of having the featured act perform a first set to open the night. The support acts would then play during the break, followed by a second set by the headliner. In addition, many of these Fillmore Auditorium shows were billed as dance events rather than concerts, with no assigned seating on the floor, and were also some of the earliest productions to feature light shows and screen projections along with the live music. Attendees were encouraged to dance and interact with each other, making these events quite different than a traditional concert experience.
These Jefferson Airplane sets are fascinating for a number of reasons. Grace Slick had replaced Signe Anderson as the female voice of the band just a few weeks prior to this show, and these recordings give a clear picture of that transition as it was taking place. This concert also falls right in the middle of the initial studio sessions for the band's breakthrough second album, Surrealistic Pillow, which they were recording at RCA's studio A in Los Angeles the week before and the week after these performances. That album, more than any other, would soon gain Jefferson Airplane (along with the San Francisco cultural scene in general) its first significant form of national attention.
Following the break, which included a set by Demon Lover, the second Jefferson Airplane set begins. Minus Grace and Marty, the musicians in the group begin by performing a 10-minute highly improvisational instrumental. This heavy psychadelic jam contains elements that would later resurface within "Bear Melt," the closer of the band's Bless Its Pointed Little Head live album a couple of years later. Some of the same progressions occur as do a few signature Jorma solos. They continue with the earliest known performance of "She Has Funny Cars," a new number they are obviously very enthusiastic about. Returning to first album material, they cover "Tobacco Road" followed by a fine version of "Runnin' Round This World," a track that RCA had deleted after the first pressings of their debut album, due to the controversial line "The nights I've spent with you have been fantastic trips."
"Go To Her," a song recorded by both early incarnations of the band, but not included on the albums, is next. This is followed by the breezy and beautiful "My Best Friend," in possibly its live debut, before Jorma and Jack lead an extensive blues jam on "In The Morning." A short but unique improvisation leads into "Run Around" which transitions directly into "And I Like It," two more tracks from the first album, before the band tackles "Somebody To Love." This is particularly fascinating as they are still clearly working out the arrangement. Showcasing Grace Slick, this is performed back to back with "White Rabbit," which they had just recorded the week prior. These songs would soon bring the band international recognition, but that trajectory is still months away and it is a sheer delight to hear these songs when they were such fresh new additions to their stage repertoire.
The end of the night approaches with a spacey cover of Donovan's homage to San Francisco, "Fat Angel, " with the line "Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time." They close with an intriguing version of Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour," with Marty belting out the lead vocal. This song was covered by many San Francisco bands during this era, most notably The Grateful Dead, but here one can enjoy a rare Airplane take on this popular song.
Written by Alan Bershaw