Paul Kantner - rhythm guitar, vocals; Mickey Thomas - vocals; David Freiberg - vocals, keyboards; Craig Chaquico - lead guitar; Pete Sears - bass guitar, keyboards; Aynsley Dunbar - drums
(Late Show) The Jefferson Starship's 1979 album title, Freedom At Point Zero was an apt description for where the group stood at the end of the decade. With the departure of Marty Balin and Grace Slick, Paul Kantner remained the sole remaining mainstay of the original Jefferson Airplane. Without Balin's romantic songwriting and charismatic stage presence and Slick's sardonic wit and sense of drama, not to mention their highly distinctive vocals, the band was forced to develop a new personality. This presented both opportunities and challenges that would dramatically change the sound of the band. To add to the challenges they faced, drummer Johnny Barbata was injured in a car accident. The extraordinary English drummer, Aynsley Dunbar, was brought in as his replacement. Having honed his skills with Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa and Journey prior to joining Jefferson Starship, Dunbar became another key element in the musician's move toward a harder arena-rock sound. The vocal shift was just as dramatic, as the band recruited former Elvin Bishop Group vocalist, Mickey Thomas, to help fill the massive void left by Balin and Slick. Thomas' soaring falsetto also steered the band toward a more mainstream corporate rock sound. The combination of Thomas' falsetto and Dunbar's drumming, along with a shift in songwriting responsibilities to Chaquico and Sears, led to a sound that was savaged by the critics and left many of their long time supporters behind. The band was clearly heading in a more mainstream direction, but with the introduction of MTV right around the corner, the new music Jefferson Starship created would soon capture the attention of a new generation of fans. At the dawn of the new decade, these new elements were firmly in place and the group celebrated by performing a series of concerts before intimate home town crowds at X's, a new wave disco in the North Beach section of San Francisco. With a capacity of approximately 500, this was the most intimate venue the group had performed in for years. After a warm-up show on 12/30/79, two shows were presented on New Years Eve and both were simulcast; one for the East Coast and one for the West Coast.
The late show, a New Years Eve celebration for the West Coast, features a more truncated setlist compared to the early show, but again features Freedom At Point Zero material, as well as several choice Airplane/Starship classics thrown in for good measure. With less time to play, they focus on the strongest material, giving this set a more consistently high energy level. Like the early show, they open with "Ride The Tiger," a song that signaled the initial emergence of Jefferson Starship out of the ashes of Jefferson Airplane. Here it serves a similar purpose of introducing this new harder rockin' Jefferson Starship launching forth into the 1980s. "Jane," the band's classic AOR hit follows, with its screeching lead vocals and guitar, crunchy chord changes and reggae-flavored bridge, magnifying the shifting power within the band. Pete Sears' new song, "Stranger," which would eventually appear on the Starship's 1981 album, Modern Times, is up next, followed by a version of Kantner's "Have You Seen The Saucers" that features a bass solo from Sears and is far more expansive treatment than the early show performance. This leads up to midnight and a Happy New Year shout-out to the hometown crowd and West Coast radio listeners.
The set then continues with another new Kantner track from the recent album, Things To Come. This is followed by the Airplane classic, "Somebody To Love," with Mickey Thomas taking lead vocal duties and the band tossing in an instrumental nod to The Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" midway. The two songs that closed the early show are up next. First is the high energy Spitfire track, "Dance With The Dragon," followed by "Light The Sky On Fire," a relatively rare song, featured in a Star Wars holiday special and as the b-side of the "Hyperdrive" single. Craig Chaquico then leads the way through the single he penned for the band, "Rock Music," an accessible good time sing-a-long number. They conclude the West Coast celebration with a rip-roaring take on "Volunteers" and a nod to the new wave shift in music, "Girl With The Hungry Eyes," to ring in the new decade.