Sunday, April 10, 2005

Jefferson Starship...creaky but still rockin'

It was dusk, and 800 or so of us were sitting on the big lawn at Avila Beach, watching and listening to Jefferson Starship. Marty Balin opened the set yesterday with an odd choice, "She Has Funny Cars" from Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow. The crowd was responsive, but not overly so. Then Diana Mangano launched into a rousing "Somebody to Love" (not Grace, but damn close). A quarter of the audience ran up to the stage and started dancing.

I sat in my beach chair, washing down the last piece of tri-tip sandwich with a Corona, and wondered who the overweight, gray-haired guy with glasses was. I'd seen this Jefferson Starship crew three times since 1995, and I was able to identify most everybody. Of the real oldtimers, Balin was there. And Paul Kantner, of course (the heart of the band). Jack Casady was missing this time. But who was this other guy, singing background harmonies on "Miracles" and "Count on Me"?

Then Diana introduced the band. When she got to the overweight guy with glasses, we found out he was David Freiberg! The Avila crowd roared. The last time I'd seen Freiberg, originally with the great Quicksilver Messenger Service before joining the Airplane/Starship family in 1972, was probably at the Shrine Auditorium in downtown L.A. in, oh, 1976 or 1977. I found out last night that he's been performing occasionally with JS since last fall (see photo above) -- 26 years since last appearing with Marty, at least 20 years since last appearing with Paul.

Last night, Freiberg performed strong lead vocals on "Jane," which he'd written for JS's 1979 Freedom at Point Zero album, and "Pride of Man," a very old Quicksilver tune. Then the party really took off, and it didn't stop until the sun had disappeared entirely and we were all too cold to stay much longer anyway.


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