Review by John West
As we take our seats and look around the Civic Hall the audience reflects a varied age range from those who remember the Doors first time round through to the late 70s punk/early 80s alternative crowd – think Stranglers, the Bunnymen, Teardrops and beyond, to much younger fans who maybe are getting into the music of the Doors for the first time. The youngest here is surprisingly about five complete with Morrison t-shirt accompanied by mum and dad – its music for all generations and for the future. Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger have kept their music alive in various forms over the years, the last outing featured Ian Astbury (the Cult) holding the torch for Mr James Morrison. This time they have an orchestra in tow the Royal Philharmonic Concert orchestra with the former Steelheart vocalist the Croation born Michael Matijevic (who’d previously auditioned for Slash’s Velvet Revolver) stepping into the lizard kings boots. As the orchestra takes their seats, with the strings to the left with brass to the right, someone shouts out for ‘Light my fire’ as they tune up. Ray Manzarek enters the stage to rapturous applause, closely followed by Robby Krieger they wave and position themselves as Manzarek sits at his trusty keyboard, with Krieger plugging in his Gibson SG. A quick queue and they burst into “Love me two times” – the audience rise to their feet to welcome their heroes. The Doors of Perception have been opened at the Civic. Is everybody in?
They plunge into the organ intro ‘Break on through’ with Matijevic delivering a fine vocal performance as it finishes there are chants of ‘Robby Robby’, the guitarist smiles. With yet another guitar change of his customary SG for another SG, he acknowledges the disciples. With ‘Love her madly’ following, things are bought to a more calmer level as ‘Waiting for the sun’ oozes out from this collective of musicians, held wonderfully together by these two “legends” as Krieger using some very effective slide on guitar. As Manzarek performs his master of ceremonies act, conducting his hand assisting the conductor (Brent Havens) signalling to the band and coaxing them through ‘Strange Days’. With Manzarek and Krieger introducing each other ‘Moonlight drive’ segues to ‘Horse Latitudes’ the poetic refrain being handled by the former. At this point he asks the audience to get down - it’s supposed to be a rock n roll show after all, a dash to the front ensues despite initial requests by security for the audience to sit down at the beginning of the gig. They accept the bands request allowing the audience that closer contact to their heroes, much to their appreciation. Manzarek states it’s time to get dark, it’s time to get strange, it’s time to get weird, as the band and orchestra interweave further Doors classics to everyone’s delight, ‘Not to touch the earth’ indeed.
After a short break, which seems to be the norm now with living legends (re: Crosby Stills and Nash review a couple of weeks back ), Ray Manzarek introduces Robby on Spanish guitar after some lovely feather light playing the faithful already anticipating ‘Spanish caravan’ as it flows from the refrain of this brief solo spot. We next head out on our own aural voyage on board the ‘Crystal ship’ to more calm waters which is simply divine. People really are getting strange as Manzarek honky tonks in part the main riff of the song, the audience loves it; he is overwhelmed by the response and thanks them.
Jim Morrison was no stranger to controversy as we all know – constantly challenging society, its’ politics, makeup, authority and control – here RM takes the mantle dedicating ‘Five to one’ to all the warmongers out there urging them to make love not war. Some things never change and maybe we ought to be doing more in today’s troubled world, surely it still makes sense even more so now - 40 plus years on! Their catalogue of music can still have the ability to inspire musicians and the listener generations on. With Manzarek thumping out the main riff on the organ it builds and builds not quite the apocalyptic proportions and menace of the original and “ live” recordings but ballsy all the same.
Its time to get funky and sexy as RM urges us to move into James Brown territory – hitting the keys for ‘Touch Me’ as he grooves the lines, taking over from Matijevic prior to whom I believe seemed to be having throat problems earlier in the set? This doesn’t distract the listener though; they are on fine form tonight as the audience sing along to each song. As the gig draws to a close (there’s a 10pm curfew) RM asks if we can hear rain – queue ‘Riders on the storm’ which is atmospheric and works brilliantly with its orchestral accompaniment – the strings adding an ethereal touch to this classic tune.
Manzarek recalls a trip to Amsterdam in ‘68 where Jim was given a chunk of “hash” by a fan, on top of what he had already consumed that day, rendering him unable to sing that evening way back, therefore he was no stranger to taking the vocal lead for the night. This did not detract from what Matijevic did earlier he did a fine job – leather pants and all, as did the band and orchestra – a great combination and presentation of the music of one of Rock’s most influential bands of all time. The bluesy rocked up feel of ‘Roadhouse blues’ then hits us as everyone laps it up, no one remains seated as we crave more. We get this of course with ‘Light my fire’ as expected, its past 10 and time to finally close the Doors. As Messer’s Manzarek and Krieger bring the evening to its conclusion, having clearly enjoyed themselves, we head out into the night, we got together one more time and as the evening shadows gathered in we headed for the train home on our own moonlight drive.
This is the end!!
Listen (all remastered with bonus tracks)
Waiting for the sun
Very best of the Doors
When you’re strange - DVD (new documentary film narrated by Johnny Depp) available August 2010