Sep 25, 2023

We Built This City On Endless Summer Nights

Starship / Richard Marx
Bloomsburg Fair - Bloomsburg, PA
Tonight, we got to see two more artists whose music I have heard on the radio throughout my entire life when Starship and Richard Marx performed at the Weis Market Grandstand at the Bloomsburg Fair.

It drizzled a little bit as we were taking our seats, but heavy rain thankfully held off and we were able to enjoy both shows while staying reasonably dry.

Starship may have the most complicated history of any rock band that I've ever listened to, and I'm not even going to pretend to understand it all.  There have been so many members of this group since 1965 that there are two separate Wikipedia pages dedicated to mapping out all of the members of Jefferson Starship and Starship over the years.  Just looking at them makes my head hurt.

There's really no way to explain the lineage of this band without a whiteboard and a marker, and if you can't tell from my tone, I have absolutely no patience for this sort of bullshit.  Still, I want to at least give an idea of who took the stage tonight in Bloomsburg, so here is a grossly over-simplified timeline of how we got from Jefferson Airplane in 1965 to the current incarnation of Starship that's still touring in 2023:
  • Jefferson Airplane formed in the mid 60's and recorded some of the most iconic rock songs of their generation before changing their name to Jefferson Starship in 1974.
  • Singer Mickey Thomas joined Jefferson Starship in 1979.  He continued as the band's lead singer or co-lead singer for about six years until Paul Kantner left the group in 1984.
  • Kantner sued his former bandmates to prevent them from using the words "Jefferson" or "Airplane".  In 1985, the remaining members of the band dropped "Jefferson" from their name and became Starship with Mickey Thomas and Grace Slick as co-lead vocalists.
  • Slick left the group in 1988, and Thomas has been the lead singer of Starship ever since.  The band is currently comprised of Mickey Thomas, Cian Coey, John Roth (the guitarist from Winger), Jeff Adams, Phil Bennett, and Darrell Verdusco.
Unfortunately, the setlist for this performance has not yet been published and my memory is pretty terrible, so I don't remember the order of the songs or even how many songs were played.  I can tell you that they performed Sara, Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, and Wild Again (from the soundtrack to the 1988 movie Cocktail) early in the set.

They also performed a hit single from 1975 called Fooled Around And Fell In Love that Mickey Thomas sang lead vocals on when he was a member of the Elvin Bishop Band.  I know it well because it was one of the songs that was on the tape that we played at Carmen's Restaurant when I worked there as a busboy when I was 15.  I can almost smell the spaghetti sauce every time I hear a song that was on that tape.

Before they closed their set with We Built This City, they paid tribute to the origins of the band with an extended medley of White Rabbit and Somebody To Love, both of which featured Cian Coey on lead vocals.  Now, both of these songs were first recorded over ten years before I was born so I'm hardly an authority, but I can tell you that she absolutely knocked it out of the park and sounded as good or better than any performance of either song that I've ever seen or heard done by Grace Slick, and I'm not the only one who thought so.  Everyone sitting around us was absolutely blown away by how incredible they sounded.  The whole set was fantastic.  You can talk about the Ship of Theseus aspect of the lineup all you want, but the musicians who are performing as Starship in 2023 absolutely deliver the goods and put on one hell of a show!

Richard Marx took the stage next.  Now I'm as familiar with his hit songs as anyone else who grew up in the 80's and 90's, but if I'm being perfectly honest, I know next to nothing about this man's life and very little about his career.  The video that played just before he took the stage probably quadrupled my knowledge about the dude right then and there.  He's married to Daisy Fuentes?  How freakin' cool is that!  The point is that I really didn't have any strong opinions about him one way or the other going into this show.  When I think of love ballads, I think of a brooding, upright guy who takes himself seriously at all times, so I guess I sort of expected someone like that, and that's not at all how he comes across on stage.  He seems like a very chill, laid back and funny dude, and he dropped about as many good natured F-bombs as I've heard out of Violent J at an Insane Clown Posse show.  I can see why he's worked with so many other artists over the years because he seems like an extremely easy person to get along with.

The setlist for this show has not yet been published either, so I can't be sure of every song that he played or the order that he played them in, but I'm sure that he performed Endless Summer Nights, Angelia, Hold On To The Nights, Hazard, Same Heartbreak Different Day, Don't Mean Nothing, and Should've Known Better, and he closed with Right Here Waiting.  He also performed When You Loved Me with his three sons (via a prerecorded video), and three covers of songs that he wrote that were recorded by other artists.  I remember that the second one was This I Promise You (NSync) and the thing one was Long Hot Summer (Keith Urban).  I could swear that there was one before both of these, but I can't remember what it was.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed hearing all of the songs that I just mentioned, but the highlight of this set for me was an incredibly cool gesture by Richard Marx that took place about halfway through his set. The band on stage with him included two members of an indie rock group called Harper Blynn, with J. Blynn (aka: Dandelion Head) on lead guitar and Whynot Jansveld on bass.  I had never heard of either of these guys or their band before, but Marx gave Blynn the lead and backed him up on a Harper Blynn song called Long Way From Home, and it's a damn good song!  I caught it part of the way through the song on my phone just so I wouldn't forget to look it up when I got home.  Check it out and see if you like it too!

Look, I'm not going to pretend like I'm the president of the Starship or Richard Marx fan club but when I saw that they were performing at the Bloomsburg Fair, I thought what the hell.  I'm familiar with a lot of their songs, and I've enjoyed everything that I have heard on the radio from both of them over the years.  Why wouldn't I go check them out and see how they are live in concert?  You know what... they sounded great, the show was a hell of a lot of fun, and I wouldn't hesitate to see them again.