It is difficult to criticize something that gives so many people so much pleasure. This fact was driven home in February at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. That evening, Jefferson Starship played a 90-minute set to a fanatic, adulating audience that hung on every word and movement. The band was enthusiastic and definitely demonstrated that, despite a graceless moment or two, a rock group of the 1960s can keep a ’90s audience mesmerized. (Of course, having an audience of 40- and 50- year-olds helps.)
The band’s current line-up features three members of the original Jefferson Airplane: singer/guitarists Paul Kantner, Marty Balin, and bassist Jack Casady. The other members joined for the band’s 1992 tour and female lead-singer Diana Mangano was recruited during this past year. Though the tour is called “Acoustic Voyager,” the electric guitar was definitely present, in the capable hands of Mark “Slick” Aguilar.
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The band’s instrumental competency is unquestionable. In particular, Casady’s bass playing was a treat and backed up his old friends’ best songs with strength and vigor.
Jefferson Starship began their set with Kantner’s 1968 anthem, “Crown of Creation.” From there, the group played new material, Jefferson Starship’s major hit songs from the 1970s (“Count on Me” and “Miracles”), some songs from Marty Balin’s solo career, and a fine selection of tunes from the old days of the Jefferson Airplane. Mangano was greeted by cries of “Diana! Diana!” from the moment she stepped on stage. Her performances of Grace Slick songs “Law Man” and “Sunrise” were passionate and intense. However, the crowd saved its loudest screaming for the encores. After Mangano shook off a particularly shrill request for the Airplane hit “Somebody to Love,” the band responded with another Airplane hit: “White Rabbit.” The show ended on an energetic note, with the revolutionary epiphany “Volunteers.”
Out of the Blue, a Grateful Dead tribute band, was a splendid opening act for Paul Kantner and company. They sounded … well, just like the Grateful Dead (actually, I prefer hearing these singers to Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia). Until I see the Dead in concert, these boys will definitely do