ANNA MARIA – Featuring Mickey Thomas on lead vocals, Starship put on a stellar concert at The Center of Anna Maria Island.
Taking place inside The Center’s spacious gymnasium, Starship’s Thursday, Jan. 23, time-traveling musical excursion was part of the 2020 Bradenton Gulf Islands Concert Series presented by the Sandbar restaurant.
As she’s done since 2006, the talented Stephanie Calvert stood side-by-side with lead singer and bandleader Mickey Thomas and delivered the lead and backing vocal parts made famous by the legendary Grace Slick.
The rock-solid Starship also featured John Roth on lead guitar and backing vocals, Phil Bennett on keyboards and backing vocals, Jeff Adams on bass and backing vocals and Darrell Verdusco on drums and backing vocals.
The band looked and sounded fantastic on The Center stage as they performed a string of hits that covered the musically-entwined Starship, Jefferson Starship and Jefferson Airplane musical canon that spans three decades.
Thomas still has one of the highest vocal ranges in rock music and Thursday’s concert started with two up-tempo rockers: “Layin’ It On the Line,” from Jefferson Starship’s 1984 “Nuclear Furniture” album and “Jane,” from Jefferson Starship’s 1979 “Freedom at Point Zero,” the album that marked Thomas’ debut with the band.
Next came “Sara,” the mid-tempo hit from Starship’s 1985 debut album, “Knee Deep in Hoopla,” followed by “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now” and Calvert taking the lead on the Dianne Warren-penned “Set the Night to Music,” both from Starship’s 1987 album, “No Protection.”
Starship jetted back to the 1960s as Thomas left the stage and Calvert belted out “White Rabbit,” the trippy signature song from Jefferson Airplane’s l967 “Surrealistic Pillow” album.
Next came a three-song medley that featured Thomas singing lead on the mid-70s Jefferson Starship hits “Miracles” and “Count On Me” and Calvert singing lead on “Somebody to Love,” the other 60s anthem from “Surrealistic Pillow.”
Audience member and Bradenton resident Andy Cochran said he saw Jefferson Airplane perform “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” at Woodstock in 1969.
The back of the gymnasium provided room to dance for those so inclined, including Shona Otto and Pam Lee from The Sun’s advertising department, joined by Otto’s mom, Jana Samuels.
Thomas revisited his pre-Jefferson Starship days with a well-received version of Elvin Bishop’s 1976 hit single “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” – a recording that featured Thomas on lead vocals back when he was one of Bishop’s back-up singers.
“Stranger” from Jefferson Starship’s 1981 album “Modern Times” came next, followed by the title track from 1982’s “Winds of Change,” both of which featured Roth’s dynamic guitar work.
The set ended with Starship’s 1985 #1 smash hit, “We Built This City,” which led to County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Ralph Cole and several others joyously singing and dancing in front of the stage, joined by many throughout the gymnasium turned concert hall.
Starship returned for a one-song encore that began with an atmospheric keyboard solo and segued into “Find Your Way Back,” also from “Modern Times.”
Mid-way through the show, Cole said, “This is great stuff.”
Cole and his wife, Beth, were accompanied by his brother and his brother’s wife, who were visiting from Michigan.
“It was a great evening for Anna Maria Island,” Whitmore said afterwards. “Fantastic. A world-class band entertained us all.”
Center Executive Director Chris Culhane said he loved the concert and noted the paid attendance was slightly under 500 people.
Center Board of Directors’ Chairman David Zaccagnino said, “It was awesome. Mickey still has it. Everybody had a good time and people were on their feet at the end.”
The opening act
Before Starship took the stage at approximately 8 p.m., three well-known Anna Maria Island musicians teamed up to serve as the opening act: guitarist-singer Chuck Caudill, guitarist-singer Trevor Bystrom and drummer-percussionist James Hershey.
The Bradenton Gulf Islands Concert Series continues Thursday, Feb. 13, with former Chicago drummer and founder Danny Seraphine and his California Transit Authority paying tribute to his former band. Then it’s The Grass Roots on Thursday, March 19. For tickets, visit www.ManateePerformingArtsCenter.com or call 941-748-5875.