The Poison frontman promised an “all killer, no filler night of hit songs,” and the festival delivers one massive chart favorite after another. In addition to Michaels and Jefferson Starship, the tour also features Night Ranger and a flurry of special guests.
On opening night in Detroit, there wasn’t a dead moment to be found. Jefferson Starship primarily focused on hits from the ’80s, but also included a favorite from the ’70s before reaching all the way back to the psychedelic ’60s era of the Jefferson Airplane as “Somebody to Love” closed things out. “That song is so emotional,” guitarist Jude Gold tells UCR. “It just has something which transcends and it’s timeless.”
Gold has been with Jefferson Starship for more than a decade now and brings a unique angle. He’s a musician who also can get really forensic about things as journalist for Guitar Player and host of the popular podcast No Guitar is Safe. He joined UCR for a recent Zoom conversation about the new tour, ageless original Jefferson Starship member David Freiberg and hanging out with Grace Slick.
This Parti-Gras tour with Bret Michaels seems like it’s been a big outing for you guys. What’s the experience been like?
Well, Bret Michaels, you know he had a vision of this show with multiple bands and tons of hit songs that everybody knows. And if that wasn’t enough, [with] the whole somehow even being greater than the sum of its parts, culminating with a big jam on stage with everybody running around – he actually pulled it off. We’re finally doing it and the vibe is incredible between all three bands, Night Ranger, Bret Michaels’ band and us. Mark McGrath is there from Sugar Ray. Steve Augeri, who was in Journey, is singing the shit out of these Journey songs. It’s cool to see a plan come together, because I think it’s becoming more massive than people have expected. The reviewers seem to really be liking it and there’s tons of walk-up [sales] and the venues are packed. These are big old sheds, you know? I’m really happy for Bret. He deserves it, because he’s such a positive dude and he makes everybody feel like you’re his best friend. There’s very few people that can actually pull that off. That’s the vibe that surrounds him and I think it’s contagious. I think it’s pouring off the stage into the audience and it’s a good thing. It’s a great thing if you like classic rock.
As a guitar player, what’s interesting to you about the structure of these Poison songs?
It has roots to it. Like, “Nothin’ But a Good Time,” it’s kind of like a Keith Richards lick. It’s got that one-finger barre chord thing. It’s like a [Rolling] Stones kind of riff that we all know and love – which of course, borrows from Chicago blues, Motown and stuff. It’s directly from the Chicago blues, maybe the Motown kind of thing, early R&B, through Keith Richards, with even louder and nuclear powered guitar tones of the ‘80s. [There’s also] a little bit of AC/DC in there – which to me, that’s one of the biggest compliments you could ever pay, because AC/DC gets crowds grooving with the most simple chord progressions. They can get 20,000 people all jumping off of a chord progression that you can learn to play. Three weeks of playing guitar and you can be playing a great AC/DC riff. [Laughs] Even if you’ve been playing for 40 years, it’s still fun, those kinds of riffs. That’s the thing, that’s what Poison has in a song like that. It’s got all of those different elements. It’s got the R&B, the Motown, the Keith Richards attitude, the rebel Rolling Stones kind of thing, filtered through Sunset Strip heavy metal and there you have it. A huge chorus from Bret with the lyrics that everyone can sing. If you haven’t ever heard that song, you will know it and by the second chorus, you’ll be singing along. That’s a perfect example, I think, when it comes to the magic of Bret’s songs with Poison and beyond.
The Jefferson Starship set opens with “Find Your Way Back” and then you go right into “Sara.” That’s a power move, putting that as the second song.
That was a high chart topper, you know. Donny Baldwin, our drummer … he’s such an important part of that sound. People don’t always realize, but he’s a monster singer and he sings a lot of the high parts. The shimmering high part that makes the vocal sound so full. A lot of times, people ask us if we use tracks. We’re like, “No, we don’t use any tracks. These are the real voices.” I think Donny is a big part of that. His high parts give it that sheen. But as far as choosing which songs to play when, when you have a quick opening set of 35 minutes, it’s kind of like, “Well, which one should we play last?” That’s probably when the most people will be there. It’s tough to decide. I wish we could play them all last in the set – because they’re all such good songs. “Sara” has a real beautiful melody and chord progression. That lead guitar line is a lot of fun and it leads perfectly [into] “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” which pretty much everyone on Earth knows that song. Even people who might think they don’t really love it, by the time we get to the big chorus, they’re all singing it. You can’t not sing that when you’re out having a good time at a rock concert.
In the wrestling world, Orange Cassidy used “Jane.” There have been a lot of cool pop culture moments like that. How did you hear about him using that song?
I know David [Freiberg] got a very nice phone call about that, because it was a licensing thing. So I’m very happy for David, because he’s the main songwriter on that song, so it’s really cool. That means his grandkids get a little more whatever. That’s really wonderful for David to get those kinds of phone calls about that song. It was also heavily featured in Cocaine Bear in the opening scene. I just love hearing it at these big events. Also, what’s really cool is that usually with the opening logo on a movie, you hear the [film company’s theme] music, but on Cocaine Bear, you hear the beginning of “Jane” during that. That’s the first thing you hear as that logo comes on screen. I get a lot of energy seeing it being cranked up louder at football games. You know, they come back from a commercial break or something. You hear it all of the time. It’s a great tune.
Watch Jefferson Starship’s ‘It’s About Time’ Video
I love that Grace Slick co-wrote “It’s About Time,” one of the songs on the latest Jefferson Starship release. How did she end up back in the mix for that?
Well, she’s always in the mix spiritually and peripherally. She’s been good friends with David and Donny for a long time. She’s known David since the ‘60s. He was actually in Jefferson Airplane for the last year and they did a live record. Of course, he goes back with Paul Kantner all of the way to the folk days. It’s so deep. To see David now, up there just peaking at 84 years old, everybody who sees him is like, “I want to live my life the way David is living his life.” He sings “Jane” every night, which he wrote like 90% of that song – the melody, the chord changes and the lyrics for the most part. To see him delivering that, people are always so surprised. So when you’re talking about a secret weapon, yes, that’s David. He gets up there and crushes “Jane” and often takes a little vocal cadenza at the end wherever we are. But yeah, Grace is just great to have in our sphere. She sure seems to love us. She’s come to some of our video shoots and a couple of our concerts and taken us out to dinner a couple of times in recent years. She’s just an amazing person and fucking hilarious. She is rad. There’s only one Grace Slick in this universe.
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