St Charles - Wooden Ships
Count On Me
Teaching the Computers To Dream
Plastic Fantastic Lover
Coming Back To me
Crown Of creation
Other side of this life
I met up with friends a couple of hours before the gig, who
had been on the Benelux leg of the tour. They warned me that
despite low attendances the band was in top form.
After a nervous wait through the opening set by local band
Sassafras, I soon saw what they meant. If you like top quality
straightforward rock with some top quality jamming mixed in
with quality set-piece guitar dueling, these are your boyos.
They sounded like a cross between Man and Wishbone Ash. I
thought the girl vocalist and the brass section were a bit
surplus to requirements, though. They rounded the set off
with a stirring version of 'I Am The Walrus' which left the
audience in a very upbeat mood.
After a short intermission, Starship were on. The soundman
had taken about 5 minutes to load up the table next to where
Paul Kantner was to sit, with strange crystalline objects,
seashells and other charms, and curious mandala-like cards
were scattered about the stage, adding an air of mystery.
There was no mystery as the band took off with 'St. Charles'
from the Spitfire album, straight into 'Wooden Ships' and
straight from there into 'Somebody To Love' with hardly a
gap in between for the audience to show their appreciation.
Three more classics from the very earliest Airplane days followed:
'She Has Funny Cars', 'Wild Tyme' and 'DCBA 25.' A tad more
up to date with 'Count On Me' allowing Marty Balin a chance
to take an even more central role, and then right up to date
with a number called 'Teaching The Computers To Dream.' I
haven't managed to decipher the lyrics from this, my first
hearing, but it sounds like one for all you Artificial Intelligence
buffs out there. Then Diana Mangano brought the house down
with a stunning version of 'Silver Spoon.' In the cold light
of morning, just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.
the emphasis shifted over to Marty again with 'Miracles',
'Hearts' and 'Today' three ballads to mellow out the middle
of the set. Then the Starship moved into warp factor 10
with what is known among fans as the 'Blows Suite' - basically
side 2 of the Blows Against The Empire album. I suspected
this would be difficult to bring off, as much of the suite's
success depends on Garcia's shining, acidic guitar. But
Slick Aguilar has grown in stature and confidence on this
tour and his playing stands up as individually his, but
capturing perfectly the feel of the original. This was followed
by 'Hyperdrive' a 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' that had all
the feel of the 'Bless Its Pointed Little Head' version,
a massively powerful 'White Rabbit' - Diana again being
magnificent, and a (help I'm running out of superlatives!)
stunningly psychedelic 'Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil,'
Aguilar again producing a confident and very heavy display
of guitar pyrotechnics, bouncing ideas about with Prairie
Prince on drums who used this song as his opportunity to
take the spotlight. If you aren't tripping on a natural
high after that dose of psychedelia, you may be brain dead.
The set proper closed with 'Volunteers' and Marty whipped
the crowd up with his impassioned cries of 'Fight Back!
The band walked off, but Marty came back immediately to
perform a superb solo rendering of 'Coming Back To Me',
Chris Smith wafting gentle keyboard effects in from time
to time to give the piece an ethereal sound. Then the rest
of the band came on for 'Crown Of Creation' and finally
'Other Side Of This Life' There was no more calling for
more, as by this time the crowd had got what they came for:
a band who after all these years still have the capacity
to amaze and delight. Phew! I've got another week of this;
off to Milton
Words - Doctor
Dark - 27th October 2002