Grace Slick - vocals; Marty Balin - vocals, percussion; Paul Kantner - vocals, guitar; Jorma Kaukonen - lead guitar; Jack Casady - bass; Spencer Dryden - drums
The late October 1966 Jefferson Airplane Fillmore recordings are fascinating historical documents, capturing the band just days before they began recording their classic Surrealistic Pillow album, right at the transition point when Grace Slick joined the group. This early February 1967 run, performed a mere three months later, is perhaps even more interesting, as it captures the band within days of the album's release.
In concert, Grace Slick is beginning to display a much stronger, more charismatic stage presence; and instrumentally, the band has become significantly more aggressive and adventurous, particularly Kaukonen and Casady, who are already beginning to propel the group's sonic directions into areas previously unexplored. This is a magic moment in the band's history, occurring just prior to "The Summer of Love." Within the next few months, the band would begin gaining international attention, and consequently, experience countless new pressures and difficulties that would ultimately cause this classic lineup to splinter into various factions. For a brief time, however - captured clearly on the recordings during this run - Jefferson Airplane's music was truly a group effort and almost perfectly balanced.
The Jefferson Airplane's headlining set from the February 4 evening show is a great example of the band in transition, just as they were beginning to develop the more cohesive sound that would characterize their second album.
They perform "Let's Get Together" and "High Flying Bird," but otherwise the focus is on showcasing material from the new album and tightening concert staples like Fred Neil's "The Other Side Of This Life" and Donovan's "Fat Angel." In addition, Jorma Kaukonen had recently introduced "Come Back Baby" to the band's repertoire, a song that would become a staple of Hot Tuna sets years later. Likewise, both Of Grace Slick's showcases, "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit," are featured in this set, and it's obvious that these numbers had potential to propel the band into the next level of commercial success. Unlike the performances prior to the Surrealistic Pillow sessions, here Grace Slick exudes confidence on stage and sheer power in her distinctive vocals.
The band also treats the audience to a near perfect rendition of Skip Spence's "My Best Friend." This lovely arrangement showcases the lovely vocal blend of Marty, Grace and Paul to dramatic effect. The set-closing "She Has Funny Cars" also displays the captivating vocal blend as well as the instrumental prowess of the musicians.
All the elements of the classic Jefferson Airplane sound are finally coming together to create a perfect, expressive balance in the band's music.
Written by Alan Bershaw