Three members of Jefferson Starship appeared at the Rock Hall on Friday for an afternoon of performance and conversation, including Chris Smith, David Freiberg (who was also an original member of Quicksilver Messenger Service), and Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane). The group was in town to perform an evening of music with Cleveland’s Contemporary Youth Orchestra – Kantner mentioned it would be the first time they ever worked with an orchestra in a live concert.
During the afternoon session at the Rock Hall the group performed songs from the very first Jefferson Starship album, Blows Against the Empire (1970 - technically a Paul Kantner solo record that was the beginning of the band), including “Baby Tree” and “Have You Seen The Stars Tonight,” and thrilled the audience with the Quicksilver Messenger Service song “Pride of Man.” Kantner and Freiberg then talked about what it was like for the two of them living in San Francisco in the late 1950s and early 1960s when, as Freiberg said, the Beatniks were still hanging around. The most interesting conversation came when Kantner described how he had conceived of Jefferson Starship in the early 1970s as a collective of musicians who all would bring new ideas into the mix and contribute to the songwriting as a group effort – an idea that was inspired by communal living. Blows Against the Empire contains performances by a who’s who of the 60s countercultural scene including Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Harvey Brooks, and David Freiberg. Kantner and Freiberg explained how they viewed the musical core of the Jefferson Starship sound as the use of three part vocal harmony that they learned by listening to groups like the Weavers.
On Sunday night I had the chance to see the group perform live at the Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica with the CYO. The students in the orchestra were amazing and added new layers of music and magic to classics such as “Miracles” and “White Rabbit.” Bravo!
Related: Photo slideshow