David Freiberg takes the phrase “young at heart” to a whole new level. There seems to be no stopping him… Still going strong at 76 years-old, the Quicksilver Messenger Service co-founder is rocking and rolling around the world, as he did in his 20s, singing with palpably intensity and playing his guitar at full tilt, with his old friend, Jefferson Airplane/Starship founder Paul Kantner, who turned 73 this year.
Since reforming in 1992, Freiberg and Kantner, along with the other members of Jefferson Starship, have performed almost 800 concerts in 18 countries, playing all the timeless hits of Jefferson Starship, as well as the entire repertoire of Jefferson Airplane (synonymous with one of the most volatile, chaotic, joyous and thrilling eras in modern history). Currently celebrating 40 years in “space” and capping the final leg of their 80-show, 2014 tour in the US, Jefferson Starship made their debut appearance in Bethesda last Sunday night at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club still wowing audience members with their iconic sounds, many of whom have followed them since their inception in the 1970s.
Playing from the rich songbook of their legendary precursor band Jefferson Airplane, the current Jefferson Starship, led by songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Paul Kantner, features a stellar ensemble of old and new players: Vocalist/guitarist David Freiberg;Drummer Donny Baldwin; vocalist Cathy Richardson, keyboardist Chris Smith, and guitarist Jude Gold. As the new century unfolds, Jefferson Starship more closely resembles its original mix of psychedelic and electric folk music than the pop-driven tunes it was widely known for in the early to mid-1980s.
Fronted by powerhouse singer and rock goddess Cathy Richardson, star of Love, Janis, the band played an impressive 17-song set, ranging from straight classic rock to more “trippy”, mellow beats. The show opened with Richardson’s penetrating take on an old school hit, “Sunrise,” from Paul Kantner and Grace Slick’s 1970 concept album Blows Against the Empire, the only rock album ever nominated for sci-fi literature’s prestigious Hugo Award. Then, the full band united for more familiar all-time fan favorites.
The band stayed in the era for the seminal “White Rabbit,” with Richardson pulling a stuffed white rabbit out of a hat in charming fashion at the beginning of the psychedelic classic that was enthralling and entrancing. Part of the Jefferson Starship crew since 2008, Richardson is not only an exceptionally talented singer, but a masterful performer, pulsed with drama and a commanding presence that captivates.
In the second set, Richardson starred again with her own “Beautiful Girl” from the great yet overlooked album she released with her band the Macrodots in 2008, and Freiberg led the audience on a trippy journey with “Codeine.” Gold also shined throughout the many numbers, trading off between convincingly psychedelic riffs and arena rock-style solos, culminating with his brilliant arrangement of “Embryonic Journey,” Jorma Kaukonen’s virtuoso guitar masterpiece from Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow.
The concert ended with a double shot encore of two of Airplane’s best — “Miracles” and the revolutionary anthem “Volunteers” – both of which got the crowd on their feet and earned well-deserved standing ovations.
Entering its 40th year in the industry, Jefferson Starship’s music continues to inspire and enlighten, expanding minds and touching hearts as it has done for decades. Still soaring high with its seasoned septuagenarian members David Freiberg and Paul Kantner, together with talented newer additions, Donny Baldwin, Chris Smith, Cathy Richardson, and Jude Gold, Jefferson Starship remains to prevail as one of the most critically acclaimed touring acts today; and, rightly so.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
Jefferson Starship performed on November 23, 2014 at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club – 7719 Wisconsin Avenue, in Bethesda MD. Future events at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz and Supper Club can be found on their website.
Jefferson Airplane’s website.