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The Jefferson Starship and Orchestra Fire Off a Stunning Performance at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The classic rock legends Jefferson Starship brought their landing party to Music City for a weekend's worth of very special performances with the Nashville Symphony and conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez. We had the pleasure of taking in the hard-working band's first of three shows when on opening night - Thursday, November 09, 2023 - we watched as the five-piece plus symphony orchestra delivered a surprising and quite stunning night of music in Nashville.

Cathy Richardson owned it in Nashville.

Now, you would have every right to think that attending a Jefferson Starship show in the year 2023 might be as productive as a journey to the Badlands portion of the known Universe as seen in episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. But, you'd be wrong, Jim. Very wrong.

Sure, it's even logical to question the very premise of this band's existence in the modern era. On Jefferson Starship's own Facebook page a recent critic stopped by to ask - "Without Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Marty Balin is it really JS anymore?"

David Freiberg must have access to a time machine because he looked and sounded amazing in Music City.

We would throw in names like Mickey Thomas, Craig Chaquico and Pete Sears to make the same point underscoring just who is absent from the current line-up. But, the group's social media administrator had a quick reply to their online detractor when they replied - "I guess you'd have to check out a gig and decide for yourself."

So, we did just that and made the trek to the Schermerhorn to find out that the quality quintet onstage in Nashville all have had a unique role and history in the group proving that they have every right to claim the name of Jefferson Starship as their own. Take 85-year old David Freiberg for example. He was there all the way back in the beginning when Captain Kantner invited him onboard to take part in the outfit's first project - 1972's Blows Against The Empire.

Chris Smith, Donny Baldwin and conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez in Nashville.

Cathy Richardson - the group's current extraordinary lead singer and powerhouse front woman - was at the helm during the recording of the last album with Paul - 2008's Jefferson's Tree of Liberty. The keeper of the big beat Donny Baldwin on drums was propelling the band to new heights and radio & video ubiquity in the 80's. Chris Smith on keys and guitarist Jude Gold were also members in good standing when Kantner took his final flight in 2016.

In Nashville, Jefferson Starship was shockingly good and all in attendance were reminded just how far reaching and deep their catalog of music and radio friendly songs really is. We were ready to go on an exploration and the wait was surely worth it.

JS opened with a ferocious "Ride the Tiger" and segued into a fast-paced "Find Your Way Back" that found the band sounding nothing short of excellent especially as they were sonically blasted into overdrive with the help of the Nashville Symphony. Next, "Count On Me" made for a dependable and winning opening trio of tracks that had us wondering "what decade is this?".

Guitarist Jude Gold was flying high at the Schermerhorn.

Later in the show even singer Cathy Richardson stopped for a moment to catch her breath, herself appearing a bit shocked and stunned when she admitted - "It's never sounded this good". The good news for fans is that all three nights were rumored to be recorded for a future release and then everyone will see how this rock act has really found their way back to the future.

In fact, they are a relevant modern recording unit and they revealed their musical evolution with a take on "What Are We Waiting For?" that keeps their patented revolutionary spirit alive for a new generation. Of course, there were plenty of psychedelic numbers for the Nashville faithful that included "Today". "Lather", "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" from the Jefferson Airplane days.

The Jefferson Starship excelled on opening night and two sequels in Nashville.

Two more shocking moments cannot go unmentioned. When 85-year old David Freiberg moved to the front of the stage to sing "Jane" we didn't expect him to have the strength and control to pull it off. But, he did and his high-ranging vocals found him singing like a man half his age. David received a standing ovation for his efforts. The only song not enhanced by the orchestra was "We Built This City" that the band said they had not drawn up score sheets for. We wondered if the Nashville Symphony perhaps did not want to play on what a Rolling Stone magazine readers poll once called the worst song of the 1980s - despite its undeniable popularity.

Still, it's obvious that Scotty has been down in the engine room working doing his magic to help this version of the band fire on all cylinders to achieve warp speed as the 50th anniversary of the group's first official album (Dragon Fly) is marked in 2024. While the setlist in Nashville was transcendent we hope that they will consider making even more chestnuts and lost classics materialize for their next ride.

We've made a list that can help them go where no version of Jefferson Starship has ever gone before. Here's our Prime Directive >>> please work up the "Blows Suite", "A Child is Coming", "Flowers of the Night", "Layin' It on the Line", "No Way Out", "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over)", "Set the Night to Music", "Stranger", "Winds of Change", "Keep on Dreamin" and "Be My Lady" for future stops in Music City and we'll be sure to beam on back to watch y'all live long and prosper on another day.

Jefferson Starship confidently put their 60's 70s', 80's and modern catalog on display in Nashville.

Related Links: For more information on JEFFERSON STARSHIP and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Jefferson Starship | Nashville Symphony


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