“I’ve been waiting for this moment. I’ve had to lay off desert for a week,” said Jorma Kaukonen as a huge bass guitar shaped cake was rolled onto center stage to celebrate bandmate Jack Casady’s 70th birthday. After blowing out the candles, Jack stepped up to the microphone and announced, “I’ll meet you all back here for my 80th!”
This moment was just a small part of a very special evening– Hot Tuna’s long sold out return to the Beacon Theater, a performance lasting well over three hours. For Jack’s 70th, it was the “Electric Septet”: Jack, Jorma, Justin Guip, augmented by guitarists Barry Mitterhoff, Larry Campbell and G.E. Smith. Add vocals by the wonderfully talented Teresa Williams, and it was a stellar performance of many Tuna favorites the crowd came to hear. They were literally dancing in the aisles. “Water Song” sounded just like the recorded version, “Funky #7” was played as an extended version featuring solos from all the guitarists on stage, and “Hit Single #1” had all the musicians locked right into place, especially Jack, who more than once played his bass while jumping up and down like Daffy Duck.
The highlight of the performance was the appearance of Marty Balin, after which, much to the
crowd’s delight, the group played quite a few Jefferson Airplane songs. Likely the first time three members of the Jefferson Airplane were on stage playing this material together in 25 years, this might as well have been considered a mini reunion. “3/5 of A Mile In Ten Seconds” started off the set with Marty, followed by “Plastic Fantastic Lover.” With Marty on harmonies, Teresa turned in a version of “Somebody To Love” that got the crowd on its feet, clearly recognizing the historical significance of the moment. Later in the evening, with Marty front and center, the band encored with “Volunteers.” One couldn’t help but notice the ear to ear grin on Jorma’s face while playing behind Marty. He was so thoroughly enjoying himself you have to wonder if a proper Airplane reunion is in our near future. But for this evening, it was all about Jack, who had three different bass solos during the performance and still plays at the same energy level he did when he recorded these same Airplane songs back in the ‘60’s. Happy Birthday Jack Casady!
Photos by Arnie Goodman