Starship ft. Mickey Thomas to perform at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Saturday night

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Starship ft. Mickey Thomas, who is pictured third from right, will perform at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino on Saturday night with the show beginning at 8 p.m.

MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT — In the entire history of rock n’ roll music, there may not be a band with a more unique story of reinvention and endurance than Starship, which began in the 1960s as the quintessential Bay Area psychedelic rock act Jefferson Airplane, transformed into the more commercial rock vehicle known as Jefferson Starship in the 1970s and settled into its final form as pop hitmakers in the ’80s.

In a slightly confusing twist, there are currently two versions of the band still performing separately — Jefferson Starship, which included founding Airplane member Paul Kantner until his death in 2016 — and Starship ft. Mickey Thomas, the vocalist who first joined in 1979 and sang on megahits such as “Jane,” “Sara,” “We Built This City” and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.”

The latter will be making its Tama County debut at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel on Saturday night, and Thomas, calling in from sunny southern California, spoke to the T-R about his musical journey, why he still enjoys playing live and the strange afterlife of “We Built This City,” a divisive anthem that has appeared in everything from viral YouTube videos to Frontdoor commercials.

“It’s great to still be able to do it. I’m still enjoying it, you know, having fun. Thankfully, my voice has hung in there with me, and we’re able to do all the songs in the original keys,” Thomas said. “I still have a lot of fun on stage. The band is just a great band. As you mentioned, this has been kind of a unique journey for the evolution of Starship. It’s kind of hard to compare the way that we’ve evolved to almost any other band that’s been around for this long, but the group of guys who are with me now, the core of this band, has been together longer than any other incarnation of the band going back to the ’60s.”

Other than relatively new female vocalist Cian Coey, all of the current members have been with Thomas for over a decade. And for anyone wondering, they do still perform a tribute of sorts to the original Jefferson Airplane and that band’s powerhouse vocalist Grace Slick during the show when Coey comes out to sing “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love,” two of the most iconic songs of the counterculture era.

Thomas sometimes does a few songs from before he joined Jefferson Starship like “Miracles” and “Count on Me” live along with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” from his days with the Elvin Bishop Band, which he describes as “opening a lot of doors” for him career wise. Although a band like Starship will always be best known for its massive hits from their ’80s heyday, they did put out a new album about 10 years ago, and Thomas also recorded some new Christmas music recently along with doing background vocals for the ’90s rock band Collective Soul and songs for a documentary.

“We have to include the big hits in the show. For me personally, if I went to see an act that I really loved, I’d be disappointed if I didn’t hear the songs that I wanted to hear from them, if they got a little too esoteric (with) too much deep cuts. A little bit is OK,” he said. “But I truly enjoy playing all the hits because I just still love singing the songs, and I love to see the reaction from the songs and the audience when they get to hear the songs they’ve come to love over the years. But I also totally enjoy making new music still. I try not to make it too much of a daunting task… I love doing new stuff, but I just try not to bite off more than I can chew.”

Saturday will mark Thomas’s first appearance at Meskwaki, but he’s played in Iowa many times and has fond memories of the state. That topic lent itself naturally to another question. Has he seen the viral “We Built Sioux City” YouTube video slightly changing the lyrics of the Starship song, and what did he think of it?

“I have, and I thought it was pretty creative and cute. I enjoy it. I love to see different interpretations of ‘We Built This City,'” he said, shouting out the Scottish band Biffy Clyro for their version. “The only one I didn’t particularly care for — and I didn’t have any rights to give approval or disapproval to it — the songwriters Bernie Taupin and Martin Page kind of have control over licensing the song, but I wasn’t too crazy about the toilet one. That was on a commercial, and I thought ‘I may not have given approval on that one if it was up to me.'”

The show begins at 8 p.m. Saturday, and tickets can be purchased at this link https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/86389981/starship-featuring-mickey-thomas-tama-meskwaki-bingo-casino-hotel?country=US&language=en.


Contact Robert Maharry at 641-753-6611 ext. 255 or rmaharry@timesrepublican.com.


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