On August 13, 1965, Jefferson Airplane made their debut at the Matrix in San Francisco, and the club, founded by Airplane singer Marty Balin, was also having its opening that night. Two and a half years later, on February 1, 1968, Jefferson Airplane returned to the Matrix to play a show. By then, the group (three of whose six members had been replaced along the way) was a national success with a gold second album, Surrealistic Pillow, and two Top Ten singles, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." The third album, After Bathing at Baxter's, had been released nine weeks earlier and was at its peak, number 17, in the Billboard chart. Why an act at that level would go back to playing such a tiny venue is not explained in Craig Fenton's liner notes to the two-CD set Return to the Matrix: 02/01/68. But the result is an intimate show in which the band seems to be performing in front of friends; Balin and singer Grace Slick often seem to be exchanging remarks with people at the front tables. Relaxed and comfortable the musicians may be, but they turn in a typical concert for the period, which found the band in its prime. Naturally, half a dozen songs from After Bathing at Baxter's are featured, played much as they sound on the LP (if a little more stretched out here and there). Also included are several songs from Surrealistic Pillow, including the hits. Some longtime concert favorites, such as Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life" and Donovan's "Fat Angel," are still in the set. And there are some rarities, including what Fenton says is the only live performance ever of "Blues from an Airplane," a track from the first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (Slick, who did not appear on that disc, confesses that she doesn't know the words), and lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen's showcase on a cover of the Leiber & Stoller standard "Kansas City." Finally, the band is already starting to gear up for its next recording session, debuting another one-time-only concert rendition of "Share a Little Joke" (soon to appear as the B-side of "Greasy Heart") and improvising a lengthy instrumental that would develop into "Ice Cream Phoenix" on the next album, Crown of Creation. At this show, Jefferson Airplane wear their mantle as hometown heroes casually, while playing like the major act they are.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann