Grace Slick - vocals, organ, percussion; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - vocals, lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
Following a well-attended Friday and Saturday night run at Fillmore Auditorium, where the Jefferson Airplane performed on a bill with the James Cotton Blues Band and Moby Grape, a Sunday afternoon matinee show was added, where the Airplane could play again before an all-ages audience. This performance is interesting for a number of reasons. It captures the band just days after they had recorded the bulk of the material destined for their classic Surrealistic Pillow album. Not only does it feature this fresh new material at the point it was being recorded, but this particular performance was also a showcase for Life magazine, which had sent correspondents to cover the cultural goings on in San Francisco. In 1966, this was a big deal, both in terms of recognition for the group and in terms of national exposure for the burgeoning San Francisco music scene.
Being an afternoon performance, it is somewhat of a relaxed affair, but as it features much of the Surrealistic Pillow material, prior to that album being released, it encapsulates a magical time when the elements that would soon gain them international attention were coming to fruition. Grace Slick had joined the group just weeks prior and although not yet the dominating stage presence she would soon become, the classic Jefferson Airplane sound has clearly developed to a point where they were becoming the most captivating of all the San Francisco groups. Within the next few months, the band would be gaining international attention, experiencing many new pressures. For a brief time, Jefferson Airplane's music was truly a group effort and almost perfectly balanced. Marty Balin and Grace Slick are both beginning to display a stronger, more charismatic stage presence, and instrumentally the band has become significantly more aggressive and adventurous, particularly Jorma and Jack, who are beginning to propel the group's music into new areas previously unexplored.
The set begins with "3/5 of a Mile In 10 Seconds." With several weeks of development and the studio session completed earlier that same month, this is now becoming one of their most powerful concert staples. Here one begins to hear the classic Jefferson Airplane sound. Their captivating three-way vocal blend has clearly begun to jell and the unique instrumental approach of Jorma, Jack, and Spencer is becoming quite distinctive. "White Rabbit," a song Grace Slick had brought to the band from her days in the Great Society, is featured next. Rearranged and paired down to essential elements, its hit potential is clearly evident and it is fascinating to hear it when the Airplane's arrangement was so fresh and new. They continue with Balin's social commentary on television, "Plastic Fantastic Lover," completing the trio of classic new songs that open this performance.
At this point, Jorma Kaukonen fronts the group for a superb take on "In The Morning," showcasing the bluesy approach he and Jack Casady would eventually explore further with Hot Tuna. This is followed by two songs from the debut album, Paul Kantner's "Let Me In" and the band staple, "High Flying Bird." The former has clearly become more aggressive, featuring an explosive solo section from Jorma and Jack. The latter is taken at a considerably more relaxed tempo than just a month prior and now features Grace Slick sharing lead vocal duties.
Returning to new material, Kaukonen's now classic "She Has Funny Cars" displays both the captivating vocal blend as well as the impressive instrumental prowess of the musicians. The tender "Today" is rendered beautifully, much like the studio recording they had accomplished on November 2nd, just three weeks prior to this performance. The intended set closer, "It's No Secret," returns to first album material, but is now considerably more powerful, both vocally and instrumentally.
Apparently, the correspondents from the magazine didn't arrive on time to catch the performance, so Balin informs the audience they will play another number for their behalf. Following a humorous little jam featuring Jorma, Jack, and Spencer, they launch into a smoking version of Fred Neil's "Other Side Of This Life," forging into deep improvisational territory. This is a fascinating exploration showing just how much the band's music had advanced in the last few months. The last few minutes of this performance clearly indicate where the band would be heading in 1967.
Written by Alan Bershaw