Jefferson Starship takes long road to Carson City
It’s been a long road from 1972 to now — one that has wound through valleys and over peaks and has seen, despite the challenges, Jefferson Starship emerge stronger than ever.
Carson City will experience the current incarnation of this legendary band, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees, when it takes the stage for the 10th annual Concert Under the Stars, A Benefit for The Greenhouse Project, Wednesday at the Brewery Arts Center.
This is a rain or shine, cross-generational evening featuring nearly 50 years of hits and new music too, as Jefferson Starship presents its Carry The Fire Tour 2018.
“The band is in a very harmonious, peaceful place, with no ego, we’re loving it, writing new music and stretching,” said lead guitarist and vocalist Cathy Richardson. “When there is a band like this with its strong personalities and strong, individual voices it’s not always that easy to get a group of people together, and we’ve accomplished that and the audience feels the vibe and I think 2018, the places we’re seeing and going are a testament to the place we’re at.”
That sentiment is echoed by longtime San Francisco musician and drummer Donny Baldwin, who played with the band from 1981 to 1989, and returned in 2008. Like David Freiberg, the remaining original Airplane member in the current incarnation, Baldwin has lived much of the band’s history.
“We’ve gotten our heads together, we have great managements, we’re stronger than before and we’ve surprised ourselves at how well this is working,” he said. “It’s the craziest thing, we get up there and play and when it ends it feels like we could do a whole other show.”
Freiberg started Quicksilver Messenger, another Fillmore-era San Francisco band which he left in 1971, joining Jefferson Airplane in 1972. The legendary singer, composer, producer, instrumentalist and good human, “skipped a phase,” and “rejoined the band in 2008.
“It’s been fun all the way, and I’m going to keep going.”
All of that is a lifetime ago and today the band’s focus is on making great music, presenting past hits from an extensive catalog, as well as writing new music. They each bring their unique gifts to the band while also continuing the legacy of their dear friend and colleague, Paul Kantner, who passed in 2016, and are doing so with the blessing and support of Grace Slick and China, Slick’s daughter with Kantner.
“Paul’s legacy and approach to life and music continues,” said Chris Smith, who has been the group’s keyboardist since 1998, longer than any other in the band’s history. “He was the catalyst for bringing us together and honored and reveled in what each of us brought to the group; he was about bringing people together, living every moment.”
Kantner is remembered as a determined, funny, voracious reader with a brilliant mind; a soul fearless of pushing the envelope and challenging perspectives expressed through absolute honesty in what “polite society” would deem the most inappropriate situations, or as the band’s lead guitarist Jude Gold said, “(Paul) had no *%&#s to give … he was always moving, he is missed … he is the experience.”
“He ignored authority and charted his own path,” Smith said. “We are the beneficiaries of that.”
And the beauty of what has culminated, is in leaving history in its place, the peace and creativity Richardson referenced has rippled out and continues to touch lives.
Both Gold and Richardson grew up listening to the band and were fans long before they were participants. One gets the sense they still experience an occasional pinch-me moment.
“I am still a giant fan and knew I definitely wanted to be a singer, but to be in a band, let alone this band, was beyond my wildest dreams,” Richardson, who has had her own music success, said.
It’s no less meaningful for Gold.
“Jane, White Rabbit, Find Your Way Back…so many generations have been touched by and have so many memories tied to this music,” said Gold. “I love seeing (the band) honored, and I love playing ‘Jane’ with David who of course, sings it and wrote it.”
“It is a favorite,” Freiberg said, adding concert-goers should expect new interpretations and some improvisation, the sign of people who are in sync with and able to read where the other leads.
And yes, they still have what it takes to help the rest of us make memories woven together by the music they play.
“I often ask myself if I’m still cool, because this has become a whole different thing,” Baldwin said. “When people ask, I am proud to say I am a classic rocker and that’s kind of where I’m coming from … I don’t have anything to prove; it’s a different experience now.”
Tickets for this experience are available at http://www.carsoncitygreenhouse.org. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and the show opens with Midnight North at 6:30. BAC is located at 449 W. King St., Carson City. Further information is available on the website or by calling 775-232-8626.
For information about Jefferson Starship, visit http://www.jeffersonstarship.com.