By Andy J. Gordon
I was able to cross off one of my bucket list items on Tuesday, October 6, 2009, at Club Nokia. Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, with a strong supporting band, played the music of the Doors. The band was one of my earliest musical influences, and is still near the top of my list of favorites. Seeing them live became impossible long ago with the premature death of lead singer Jim Morrison, in 1971. The surviving members could have continued to play together with a new singer, but chose not to.
Over the last few years, Manzarek and Krieger reconsidered, and toured through 2007 with Ian Astbury of the Cult on vocals. John Densmore, the original drummer, did not rejoin the band, and legal matters led to hard feelings and cumbersome band-name compromises. The current tour has Brett Scallions, who had a couple of minor hits with his band Fuel, on vocals. Renowned session bassist Phil Chen (from Krieger and Densmore’s post-Doors band) and drummer Ty Dennis (from Krieger’s solo band) fill out the rhythm section. But the real stars of the show are Manzarek on keyboards and Krieger on guitar.
The Club Nokia show was a tight, nearly two-hour greatest hits performance. Stepping onstage to thunderous applause, the band opened with a dead on “Love Me Two Times” and segued into “Break on Through.” Scallions’ strong voice, searing screams, and rock-god strut are clearly what earned him the gig. In spite of those skills, he still cannot ovecome the memory of Morrison’s dynamic voice and presence. The band ran through several Doors hits, and Manzarek’s comments between songs had the crowd laughing and cheering. Some choice tidbits included a desire to legalize marijuana, praise for the abundance of hot California girls, and the sexual prowess of his band mates.
One highlight of the evening was a strikingly beautiful solo flamenco guitar performance by Krieger leading into “Spanish Caravan.” Sizzling solos by Manzarek and Krieger during a rollicking “LA Woman” closed the set. After a few minutes of darkness, the PA system started playing rain sound effects, and the crowd knew the band would be back with “Riders on the Storm.” Manzarek’s haunting keyboards led the band into the encore. They followed with “Roadhouse Blues” (with unexpected guest Yoni Lonich, guitarist from Chris Cornell’s band, sitting in), and closed the show with the Doors’ very first hit, the Krieger penned, “Light My Fire.”
Hearing the great Doors songs live, performed brilliantly by two of the original members, was a great experience. It was also a pleasure to see the twenty-something fans enjoying the show as much as the senior citizens in the audience. As Manzarek waxed poetic about the good times of the Sixties, the older audience members remembered fondly, while the youngsters simply enjoyed the music. I think the message to take away is that the Doors music is still as vibrant today as it was originally. Manzarek, who is 70, and Krieger at 63 are both still at the top of their game. As long as they continue to play live, we should support them, and enjoy the ride – storm or otherwise.
Love Her Madly
When the Music’s Over
Waiting for the Sun
Riders on the Storm
Roadhouse Blues (with guitarist Yogi Lonich from Buck Cherry/Chris Cornell bands)
Light My Fire
Photos courtesy Peter Bigler.