Jefferson Airplane

First Flight 1967-1971 [DVD]

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Some anonymous bootlegger has brought us over 90 minutes of live Jefferson Airplane, starting with their 1967 appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, a totally surreal picture-within-picture psychedelic presentation of "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," synched up to what sound like the standard studio recording but with Grace Slick -- who looks like she's singing live -- and the others looking like their tripping just the same, merely from playing to a few million people on camera. Dick Clark almost makes a fool of himself introducing the band on American Bandstand, which is such an incongruous venue in which to hear "White Rabbit" that it's worth seeing just for the weirdness of it all, especially shot live in black-and-white with upside-down images and other psychedelic effects interspersed on the performance clip, which is lip-synched. Also included is a really strange interview in which the band goofs on Clark and where they are (American Bandstand), mostly in response to Clark's idiotic questions. This is followed by two songs from the band's set at the Monterey Pop Festival that are already familiar to most of us -- but then comes the ludicrous spectacle from a Canadian show called The Rock Scene: Like It Is, in which the band is introduced by a very fey Noel Harrison, miming to "White Rabbit," and doing "Two Heads" and "You and Me and Pooneil" live (at least Slick is working live). The familiar Ed Sullivan Show appearance from 1968 is followed by what looks like home movie footage of a live performance from a hotel rooftop in New York, in which the band blasts the midtown, middle-aged audience out of its doldrums with "House at Pooneil Corners." Any fan would give anything to have been there -- at an event that made the Beatles' later rooftop concert for Let It Be sound very tame, with the cops interrupting things in the very same manner. The Woodstock outtakes are revealing for what they show about the band -- even with Spencer Dryden and Marty Balin on their way out of the lineup, they're ambitious here, and Slick is able to still find something to excite her about doing "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," for about the fourth consecutive year in her life. The best moment on the disc comes with the Dick Cavett Show excerpt from the day after Woodstock, in which David Crosby (and CSN) and the Airplane pretty much dominate everything. The disc is rounded out by "The Other Side of This Life" from Altamont, and the group's contribution to the European concert film Stamping Ground. The picture quality varies considerably and often leaves something to be desired, but the audio is all spot-on, and the chapter breaks are well placed and very handy.