Grace Slick - vocals, organ; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; David Freiberg - keyboards, vocals; Papa John Creach - electric violin, vocals; Craig Chaquico - lead guitar; Pete Sears - bass; Johnny Barbata - drums; Guest: Marty Balin - vocals, percussion on encores
One could conceive this remarkable Winterland performance as being, essentially, a sort of missing link between the sound of the original Jefferson Airplane and that of their subsequent reincarnation, Jefferson Starship. This was the group's second tour since the permanent departures of Kaukonen and Casady, who had begun playing with Hot Tuna full time. Pete Sears and the very young Craig Chaquico were brought on board as their replacements; in addition, ex-Quicksilver founding member David Freiberg and ex-CSNY drummer Johnny Barbata, both of who'd already been working with Slick and Kantner, remained on board. Papa John Creach, although a fulltime member of Hot Tuna, opted to stay on with Starship, as well.
With Slick and Kantner now clearly piloting the ship, the group's focus became the creation of new material - an abundance of which resulted from Kantner, Slick and Creach's side projects.
From the new, opening number "Ride The Tiger," with its galvanizing cry, "Look to the summer of '75, All the world is gonna come alive!", one immediately perceives, not a group of dinosaurs limping along, but a band soaring, high and hungry, with a newfound sense of mission. Fresh versions of additional new songs like "Hyperdrive," "Devil's Den," and "Come To Life" show the new lineup fully engaged in the material. Interspersed are songs from Slick's first solo album, Manhole, that were only performed on this tour, and provided two showcases for Papa John Creach's inspired playing. The only nod to older Jefferson Airplane material is "Wooden Ships," an apparent favorite, as it's played with obvious enthusiasm.
Creach and Slick tear it up on "Milk Train," after which things really get interesting. The group begins tuning and testing some unusual but oddly familiar sounds. Slick launches them into the opening wail of "Sunrise," signifying the beginning of a live undertaking of Kantner's "Blows Against The Empire," and which is played in its epic entirety. There's an interesting, but overlong bass solo by Sears in the middle of "Hi Jack." The dreamy "Have You Seen The Stars Tonight" in the middle of this piece is lovely and they unleash some serious energy in the finale, "Starship." Both the musicianship and the vocals come together to make this one impressive performance.
With the audience demanding more, the band returns with another pleasant surprise; Marty Balin, who hadn't shared the stage with Slick or Kantner since the final Airplane gig two years prior. He sarcastically says something along the lines of "if I sing, they'll feed me," before they sail off into the debut live performance of "Caroline," one of the songs that would soon come to define the group's new sound, and bring them another generation of commercial success. They close things off with rousing versions of the classic "Somebody To Love" and "Volunteers"; however ragged, it's wonderful hearing those three voices singing together again.
This show captures a great, but all too brief, moment in time, when Jefferson Starship was just rising from the ashes of the Airplane. The trappings of commercial success had not yet begun the inevitable cycle of instability that these musicians were well known for. Hardcore Airplane fans might miss the Hot Tuna element, but listening to the group as a new band, which they essentially were, one finds the playing as inspired as ever, and just as inspirational.