A Fantasy for New Year - Part 2: The Early Evening


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Posted by Keith E Rice on 01/02/02 - 05:22:01
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A short break turned out to be the best part of an hour. During that time, the crowd swelled to some 14,000, with people still arriving, and the food wagons and other vendors did big business.

Around about 5:25 PM, Bill Thompson stepped up to the mike and said, "Sorry for the delay, folks - but we do have the video screens live now ."

Right on cue, the two screens either side of the stage lit up with an angled image of Thompson as he was talking. Although the sun was still bright enough it made the screens difficult to see from many parts of the site.

"My name is Bill Thompson. I used to manage - "

Several choruses of boos erupted from amongst the audience. Thompson looked taken aback.

"Easy, folks..."

The boos increased, taking on the force of a sonic wave.

Grace Slick appeared beside Thompson and said something off-mike to him. He nodded  and went offstage.

The boos subsided as the screens now filled with a close-up of the retired acid queen.

"All right, folks," she said as Paul Kantner, Diana Mangano, Chris Smith, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Prairie Prince and Marty Balin came on, "time for my former bandmates.Gee, I hope they do some of my songs. I'd really like the royalites!"

Grace walked off as the band plugged in and tuned up. There were looks and nods and then they exploded into "True Love", with Balin and Mangano close enough to look each other in the eyes. Jorma ripped off a sorching solo in the middle.

Next was "Crown Of Creation" and the single biggest surprise of the day. There onstage and on the video screens, Mickey Thomas walked upto Marty's mike and shared it with him. Thomas' high harmony over Marty undoubtedly added a new and entrancing element to the chorale.As if to emphasise a point, Marty put his arm around Mickey's shoulders when they sang: "In order to survive, they cannot tolerate our kind/In order to survive, we cannot tolerate their obstruction".

As the applause swelled, Mickey left the stage. No introduction. No waves. No grandstanding.

As he disappeared, Prairie started the Bo Diddley rhythm of  "She Has Funny Cars" which featured a sterling guitar-bass workout at the end. This was followed by an energetic work-out on "Plastic Fantastic Lover".

Paul then made the first comments of the evening: "Thank you. It's nice to be back with you. That's if we ever really went away!...This next song is Jorma's and he's asked for Pete to do the keys."

Chris Smith had already left the stage, so it was easy for Pete Sears to wave at the crowd and step behind the rig.

A lengthy "Feel So Good" ensued, with Diana and Jorma sharing a mike.

As the applause died down, Jorma said, "We'd like to bring on somebody now. He took guitar lessons off me when he was a kid. I showed him some licks....But now he's got his own style and his own sound. Folks, Craig Chaquico."

Quite a groundswell of applause greeted the chicano as he came on. He waved to both the musicians and the crowd but made a point of shaking Jorma's hand.

Once Craig was set up, the band launched into a fierce "Ride The Tiger" - which had the two guitarists trading licks on both extended intro and outro.

At the conclusion, Marty commented: "Y'know, folks for twenty-five years it's been my dream to get these two on the same stage. Now, at last I've seen it happen. Whew!"

"Next up was "There Will Be Love", with Craig and Jorma playing around each other and Diana nailing Grace's "I will see you-ooh" high harmony at the end.

As the crowd erupted yet again, Paul said, "Thanks, Jorma. We'll see you again later."

Kaukonen grinned and waved as he exited the stage.

The band then launched into "Girl With The Hungry Eyes", with Sears and Prairie recreating the extended piano-drum interlude of the KBC version.

Jack Casady then left the stage and Sears took over bass, the two exchanging some friendly words at the bass amp.

"Thanks Jack," Paul intoned; then: "Let's bring Chris Smith back on."

Chris duly took his place behind the keyboard rig and the hand went into a smooth jazz-funk piece that became "Miracles" with the "Booker T Frieberg" organ phrase. David himself came on to add some background vocals - this time he and Kantner exchanging grins - and Marty danced a kind of waltz with Grace who came onstage (to cheers) during the extended instrumental section.

As Paul chopped the opening chords to "Dance With The Dragon", the crowd once more cheered with recognition. This was a long number, with Kantner playing some nifty 12-string Rickenbacker riffs behind Craig's blazing leads.

Next up were "Count On Me" and an evocative "Caroline" - with Freiberg once again adding his trademark backing vocals.

Then Paul told the rapturous crowd: "This is a little thing I get to play banjo on. I just hope I can out-Jerry Jerry" - as a roadie passed him a 4-string. "It could be a song about Pooh, then again it might not be."

With that the band launched into "Let's Go Together". Sears perfectly recreated Paul's own bass lines from the original, while Freiberg messed about joyously - unrehearsed? - with his own harmony part and Marty sang Crosby's lines.

The number was greeted warmly by some sections of the crowd; but less obviously so by others (who may not have known it).

Freiberg waddled offstage again.  Then Marty said. "I'd like to introduce you to a real good friend of mine who's a great singer. We're going to sing a number together and then I'm going to take a break...ladies and gentlemen, Mr Mickey Thomas."

Some of the audience cheered as Mickey came on, but the cheers were mingled with some boos.

Chris Smith started some piano fills which seemed to be aimless until Kantner's chords turned them into "Wooden Ships" Mickey sang on the choruses and sang above Marty on the "purpleberries" line - but the audience gasped most when Jorma Kaukonen suddenly appeared onstage and plugged in. He then took on Craig in a pirouetting guitar spiral that had the rest of the musicians staring at them as if mesmorised. The number finished in a wail of feedback from the two guitarists.

Marty and Jorma left the stage as the audience roared their approval.

"Awright! You awright?" Mickey blurted into the microphone. Some of the crowd shouted back their approval; many didn't. At the other end of the stage Paul shook his head as if he couldn't quite believe what he had just heard.

"We need another guitarist, and Jorma's gone," Diana said. "I guess we'd better get Slick up here."

Someone in the front rows shouted out: "What the fuck are you on about, man?" - as Slick Aguilar came onstage and began setting up.

"I mean this Slick," Diana said, as the video screens filled with the guitarist.

Once done, Slick nodded to Sears and then faced off to Craig.

The instantly-recognisable bass lines of  "Stranger" hummed through the early evening air and, with Craig nodding for cue, he and Slick played the twin guitar intro - as yet again the crowd shouted their recognition of the number. Diana and Mickey also faced off as they alternated lines and sang in harmony.

Diana then left the stage; but Slick stayed to repeat the twin guitar trick for "Find Your Way Back."

Slick left the stage and the band roared into "Jane" - with David Freiberg once more adding some backing vocals. David stayed onstage for an extended "Mary" on which Craig played guitar god for nearly 20 minutes while Pete and Prairie ratcheted up the beat tighter and tighter behind him.

There then followed a sublime "Light The Sky On Fire" - all dreamy organ and guitar fills, before Prairie picked up the beat and the song really got going. The Chaquico-Sears mid-song interplay was quite ferocious.

As the applause died down, Craig stepped up to Mickey's Mike and said, "I only agreed to do this gig if they'd get this next guy in to play. You might think Pete's good and Jack is God, but when you hear this guy, you're gonna freak."

Chris Smith had again left the stage by the time Sears had put down his bass and got behind the keyboards rig - as Brett Bloomfield plugged in and requisitioned a mike.

He then ripped off a 20-seconds slap solo - as the end of which Craig announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Brett Bloomfield!"

The crowd response was muted.

Paul then said, "It's time to say goodbye for the time being to Prairie Prince. Let's hear it for Prairie."

No shrinking violet, Prairie came to the front of the stage, bowed to the cheering crowd and blew kisses both to the front rows and to the other musicians.

Paul went on: "This next guy played with us in the KBC Band and he's been touring with Mickey for the past few years...Darryl Verdusco."

The bald drummer bounded onstage to a good response from the crowd, got on the drumstool and immediately started a tattoo which exploded into "Modern Times" - Frieberg once again adding background vocals from the rear of the ensemble.

At its conclusion, Paul, who had been smoking intermittently throughout the evening, said, "It's time for me to take a smoke break. A smoke break, y'know what I mean?" With that, he unplugged his Rickenbacker and walked offstage.

Mickey shrugged at Paul's disappearing back, stepped up to the mike as if to say something, then stepped back as if having thought better of  it.

The band started the intro to "Sara" and Mickey took the mike, saying, "This is a song that got to number one. It was written about my wife by...er, somebody else." The execution of the song was flawless; but it was one of the least-cheered numbers of the night.

There followed a short break of sorts while Craig, who appeared unhappy with his string settings, got another guitar brought onstage.

Then Mickey said, " I need a lady with a big voice to help me with this next song. Is Darby Gould still around?"

The crowd cheered enthusiastically as Darby, now wearing a different very short dress, almost ran onto the stage and kissed Thomas on the cheek.

The band then did a spirited version of "Winds Of Change" on which the Thomas-Gould pairing worked well - Darby a couple of times getting right into Mickey's body space and forcing him back.

Next up was "Be My Lady" which Mickey tried to sing right into Darby's eyes as she danced around him. Pete played a swirling trumpet-synth solo that had some of the crowd cheering as Mickey yelled, "Pete Sears!"

At the song's conclusion, Pete left the stage as Mickey said, "It took us some effort to track this guy down and persuade him to play with us again....But we did it. So here he is: Mr Mark Morgan!"

With Morgan behind the keyboard rig, the band went into "It's Not Enough" - a somewhat flat performance that drew a fairly desultory response from the audience.

Craig called Mickey over and there followed what appeared to be a brief, testy exchange. Craig shouted something to Bloomfield while Thomas spoke to Morgan and Verdusco.

"Okay, folks, a slight change of pace", he told the audience on his return to the mikestand. He turned to Darby and said, "I sure hope you know your 'NUCLEAR FURNITURE'."

"I do," Ms Gould confirmed as Mark Morgan hit the opening synth phrase to "Layin' It On The Line" and Bloomfield picked up the stacatto bass line. The number was a little ragged in delivery but Craig's guitar was on fire and Mickey really stretched himself to soar for the high notes above the band.

The audience responded much better to this - as they did to "It's Not Over" which followed.

Mickey looked out into the crowd which now numbered around 20,000 and was spilling out of the perimeters behind the burger vans and other food wagons. Some of them now had lights on as the sun was beginning to go down; a battery of low lights illuminated the more gloomy areas of the stage.

"I thought about doing 'We Built This City'" - several choruses of groans came from the crowd-  "but somehow I don't think you're in the mood for that. So we're going to finish with a love song Grace discovered. It's possibly one of the greatest love songs ever. Certainly, I'm proud to be associated with this song."

With that the band played "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now". As if to set a seal of approval on the number, Marty Balin, David Freiberg, Joey Covington and Diana Managano came out and sang on the choruses - this image up on the video screens - Diana and Darby with their arms around each other at one stage.

It was a tremendous performance which the crowd duly recognised - with many getting to their feet to show their appreciation.

Mickey, flushed with emotion, screamed into his mike: "Thank you! Thank you! Awright!"

Then he calmed himself down a little and said, "We're gonna take a short break now so they can get the lights going. And when we come back, we're going to have more Tuna. Electric Hot Fuckin' Tuna!...You know, I've always wanted to say that: Hot Fuckin' Tuna. There, I did it. Hot Fuckin' Tuna!"

"Hot Fuckin' Tuna!" shouted back the still cheering audience.


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