PICTURED: Jefferson Starship, from left: Donny Baldwin, Jude Gold, Chris Smith. Seated: David Freiberg and Cathy Richardson. Photo submitted
by Doyoon Kim
Jefferson Starship, the iconic rock group hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, is coming to perform at The Canyon in Agoura Hills. The group has been consistently touring internationally for years now and will be performing some of their biggest hits along with songs from their latest album, Mother of the Sun, on Dec. 19.
Jefferson Starship was first formed in 1974 by former Jefferson Airplane members Grace Slick and Paul Kantner. The original lineup included David Freiberg, Pete Sears, Craig Chaquico, John Barbata, and Papa John Creach. Lead singer Marty Balin joined soon after in 1975.
As one of the most successful arena rock bands of the 1970s and ’80s, the group has enjoyed great success, releasing 11 high-charting studio albums and acquiring eight gold and three platinum records with many Billboard Top 40 singles.
Over the years, the band has gone through numerous changes in personnel and genres while under the Jefferson Starship name. The group retired in 1984, but band founder Paul Kantner led a revival of Jefferson Starship in 1992 which has continued on following his passing in 2016. Today, the band continues to play sold-out concerts all over the world with its current lineup of David Freiberg (vocals, bass, keys, guitar), Donny Baldwin, (drums, backing vocals), Cathy Richardson (main vocals), Chris Smith (keys) and Jude Gold (lead guitar).
Jude Gold, the latest member of the group, joined Jefferson Starship in 2012 after guitarist Slick Aguilar had to step down due to health problems. Building on his love for Jimi Hendrix, Nile Rodgers, and Van Halen, Gold had played music with Richardson and Baldwin together in the past on several different occasions. When he first joined the group officially, it was a natural fit as the band created good chemistry.
Having seen Jefferson Starship perform live when he was a young teenager, Gold said. “It’s this constant evolution. We always try to harken back to the stuff on the famous albums, and put new flavor. We keep the key ingredients that make the original song special, but we build on them to make it memorable.”
The year Gold joined, Jefferson Starship performed in Brazil, Japan, Israel and Canada as well as the United States. Since then, life with the band has taken him all over the world — a particularly exciting aspect for the guitarist.
“Every day, my office changes,” said Gold, describing the band’s worldwide stage. Jefferson Starship has made long-lasting memories, from outdoor shows in New Zealand with Toto to gigs in almost every major city in America, using music to bring people together.
It’s much closer to home than some of their venues, but according to Gold, the Canyon in Agoura Hills has remained a favorite location for band members. “We love the Canyon; we play there regularly. It has a melting pot feeling where everyone comes together.”
One major aspect of Jefferson Starship’s live shows is its musical improvisation. Vocalist Cathy Richardson is known for her onstage antics and uproarious energy that make the group’s performances entertaining and fun to watch. The energy from the band members always keeps the audience members on their toes.
“Cathy, she’s always been a wildcard, you never know what she’s going to do on stage. That’s one of the signs of a great front person, they’re kind of unpredictable . . . that kind of energy always makes the fun of the show,” said Gold.
In March 2017, after Kantner’s death, Jefferson Starship announced the “Carry the Fire” tour as a tribute to Kantner and Slick. When asked about Paul Kantner’s influence as a pioneer of rock music, Gold replied, “PK’s spirit was always in the music, always pushing the edge. There was a certain explosivity and magic that happened on stage when I played with him. Paul always had this little spark in his eyes of daring. You never knew what he was going to do . . . He had a certain psychedelic pirate energy that came through in his music as he thundered through his 12-string guitar.”
On August 21, 2020, the group released its latest studio album, Mother of the Sun. The album includes the single “It’s About Time” written by Gold, Richardson and former vocalist Slick. Mother of the Sun also features former bassist Pete Sears on three tracks and a live version of “Embryonic Journey,” a song first recorded in 1966 and performed by Jefferson Airplane.
The foundations for many of the tracks of the album were recorded in Northern California: Some were written in Freiberg’s home studio, some on the road, and they all came together at Prairie Sun Recording Studio in Cotati, just north of San Francisco in Sonoma County. The album was finished before the pandemic, but there was a delay in the release because of the shutdown. Even with the pandemic, the group was fortunate to release its album with additional music videos, and is excited to be back performing live music.
“We can’t underestimate how difficult it has been for musicians, stage engineers, drivers, and stage techs. We’re definitely surprised to be playing again; we’re very lucky to be doing that!” exclaimed Gold.
Jefferson Starship performs on Sunday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. at the Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. For tickets and more information, call 888-645-5006 or visit wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com.