Signe Anderson - vocals; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
This three-day run, featuring Jefferson Airplane opening and closing a bill that also included the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and legendary bluesman Muddy Waters, represents the second series of concerts Bill Graham presented at Winterland. The exact same lineup, in fact, had been presented at Graham's new, larger venue the previous weekend. The performances had been so well received and attended that Graham decided to repeat his success with three additional shows on this, the following weekend.
This first show of the run starts off with Jefferson Airplane's early trademark opening - the taped roar of a jet plane taking off. Out of the rush of sound emerges a nice little jam that shows Kaukonen and Casady already beginning to take a more predominate role in the overall sound. This segues directly into an electrified cover of Fred Neil's "The Other Side Of This Life." This song was becoming a common opener for the Airplane in 1966, and unlike most of the band's pre-Surrealistic Pillow repertoire, would remain a staple of their live performances for years to come.
Marty Balin dominates the vocals during this early period, but Kantner and (especially) Signe Anderson, create a vocal blend that's as unique as it is captivating. The material from the first album is instrumentally more advanced here and the vocals more forceful and confident. "Tobacco Road," "Run Around" and the set closer, "It's No Secret," all benefit from the spontaneity of live performance. The band was beginning to diversify their sound, inspiring Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady to take on more dominant leadership roles in shaping the group's live sound. Kaukonen gets a chance to front the group for a take on "Kansas City," a bluesy cover song they never released. The sonic interplay between Jorma and Jack is intimate and innovative here -and utterly unique; even at this early stage, the seeds of Hot Tuna are being sown.
At this stage in the band's career, the vocals are still the primary distinguishing factor, but this set also gives captivating glimpse at the band beginning to intensify their instrumental approach. Following sets by Muddy Waters and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the Airplane would return to close the show with another set, during which they'd debut a considerable amount of new material. But the playing here is no less interesting or inspired - and remarkable for showing a quintessential American band during their early stages of maturation.
Written by Alan Bershaw