When I first heard that Starship featuring Mickey Thomas was playing at Hard Rock’s Velvet Sessions I was ambivalent about attending. I was a big Jefferson Starship fan, but “We Built This City” was one of those eighties rock songs where I felt rock music was jumping the shark. Then I remembered how much I enjoy the cozy venue at Orlando’s Coolest Rock ‘n Roll cocktail party: The Velvet Sessions at Hard Rock Hotel. I made a late decision to attend the show and Damn, am I glad that I did!
In 1992, after ten years of leading Jefferson Starship to unprecedented chart success, Thomas created Starship; and for the past twenty years, he’s been touring with his own incarnation of the band, playing many of their classics hits. His recognizable voice is still as pure and powerful as ever, he looks fantastic and is backed by an excellent band. Thomas got the show off to an energetic start, strutting around the stage and belting out a strong version of “Layin’ It On the Line,” featuring longtime Starship keyboardist Phil Bennett.
From there, the setlist was jam packed with the highlight tracks of the Jefferson Starship era, coupled with some nice surprises. Thomas interacted with the crowd throughout the evening and seemed to be having a great time. The band offered up powerful versions of classics “No Way Out” and “Jane” and then slowed things down with monster hits “Sara” and “Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now.” The latter featuring a nice duet between Thomas and the beautiful Stephanie Calvert.
Calvert took the spotlight a bit later in the set, as she conquered the Jefferson Airplane era Grace Slick anthems “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love.” Calvert took the songs and made them her own. The the band was spot on, with Jeff Adams on bass and Darrell Verdusco on drums powering the classics and having a blast doing so.
Thomas then returned to the stage and shared a great version of Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell In Love,’ a song he sang for Bishop’s band a few years before replacing Marty Balin in Jefferson Starship. The guitar work of Mark Abrahamian was solid all night, and he lent a fantastic solo to this one. He carried that through as the band closed the set with a fantastic extended version of “Find Your Way Back.”
For the encore, it was a little bit of the predictable and a nice dose of the unexpected. They belted out a pure version of fan favorite (my least favorite) “We Built This City.” Then, as a few band members stripped off their instruments, Thomas grabbed an acoustic guitar shouted something to his mates, and started “Now somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota. There lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon.” It was his second Beatles reference of the night, as earlier he slipped into a spontaneous stanza from “Sgt. Pepper.”
For “Rocky Raccoon” it was the full song, and it got the packed house dancing and singing along throughout. Starship put their own twist on it, and it came off perfectly, a fitting way to end a great night. We spoke with Calvert after the show, and the diminutive rocker said “Rocky Raccoon” was a bit of an Orlando tradition. Good stuff and a great end to a great show!
Check out their greatest hits on iTunes, or page down to see the setlist.
Rock On – Cretin
Layin’ It On the Line
No Way Out
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
Winds of Change
Set the Night to Music
Somebody to Love
Fooled Around and Fell in Love
Find Your Way Back
We Built This City