|Doors Of The 21st Century, The - L.A. Woman Live|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 20 July 2004|
Reunion tours of classic rock bands are seemingly a dime a dozen these days. Van Halen, now old enough to be considered classic rock, have reformed with Sammy Hagar up front again and are touring the country as I write this. Led Zeppelin has come back and performed in many incarnations, including the Live Aid performance with John Bonham’s son, as well as “Page and Plant” and the Jimmy Page/Black Crows collaboration. When the Doors started kicking around the idea of going on tour, the big question was who would sing. Finding someone to fill the tremendously large shoes of arguably one of the best frontmen in all of music is damn near impossible. Rumors started to fly in the rock ‘n’ roll world. Stone Temple Pilots' singer Scott Weiland was one of the big names that fans speculated might get the call. However, in the end it was The Cult’s Ian Astbury who was chosen. Although Astbury is British, his vocal range and power are strikingly similar to Morrison’s. Not since Val Kilmer grew out his hair and had it lightly curled and darkened for the Oliver Stone movie “The Doors” has someone done a more convincing version of Morrison than Astbury.
Jim Morrison passed away in 1971, not long after the release of the album L.A. Woman. As Ray Manzarek says on the DVD’s liner notes, “This is the tour that never was." The music from L.A. Woman was sadly never performed live by The Doors until now and this DVD gives fans like myself who were not even born when Morrison died a chance to get a small glimpse of what it might have been like to hear these songs live on stage.
The performance on this disc was recorded in Houston, Texas, during the band's 2003 world tour and clocks in at 102 minutes. Although this may seem a little short, there are enough Doors classics like “Light My Fire” and “Riders on the Storm” for the casual fan and the more obscure but equally cool songs like “Hyacinth House” and “The Changeling” to keep the diehard Doors fans glued to every note.
Respectfully, this is not The Doors. The project with Astbury fronting the band is a kind of “tribute” band that they have dubbed The Doors of the 21st Century. They are very upfront about the fact that they are paying tribute to Morrison and this is not an attempt to revive the actual Doors band. Unfortunately missing from the lineup of The Doors of the 21st Century is drummer John Densmore. A very capable drummer named Ty Dennis was chosen to handle the drumming duties for the tour and Angelo Barbera is the bassist for project.
As the show kicks off with the gritty riff from “Roadhouse Blues,” the adrenaline in the crowd and on stage starts flowing. Astbury, with his convincing Morrison haircut and garb, takes his place at the microphone stand with two hands on the mic in the famous Morrison pose. His voice is not a dead-on impression of Morrison, but the moves and the look are so strikingly similar that anyone in the nosebleed seats at the show might think the ghost of Morrison had leapt into Astbury’s body. The mannerisms, the yelps and screams coming from Astbury seem to be coming from somewhere beyond the grave.
As the night progresses and the band rolls through almost the entire L.A. Woman track list, throwing in a few classics from other Doors albums, Astbury’s voice warms up and he begins to sound more and more like Morrison. Keyboardist Ray Manzarek, one of the first guys who made playing a keyboard in a rock band a cool thing, just soaks up the energy from the crowd and gives even more back to them in return. During the extended jam session solo of “Riders on the Storm,” he pours every once of soul and musical feeling he has into the keyboard and the crowd and band eats it up. As the song transitions, guitarist Robbie Krieger plays a shredding rendition on his signature Gibson SG guitar of one of the most famous solos in all of classic rock. Interesting. I had heard that Krieger never once recorded a note of guitar that was played with a pick and still to this day, all of the notes he plays during this show are from his two bare hands, except for a slide on a few songs, including the intro to the song “LA Woman.” This fingerpicked style, combined with a lightly distorted tone, gives Krieger his signature sound that is unmistakable. Just for kicks, I went back and played a few Doors albums, including L.A. Woman as well as Strange Days and Soft Parade and sure enough, you won’t hear a guitar pick scrape or pluck anywhere. Seeing Krieger play live on The Doors of the 21st Century gave me a new musical perspective on all of the guitar parts on The Doors’ albums.
The songs “When the Music’s Over” or “The End” would have seemed like obvious choices for the closing song of the night, but the band opted for the tune “Soul Kitchen” from their self-titled debut CD. The lyrics of the songs are so fitting for the end of a show and its upbeat, jamming nature was so infectious that fans started flooding the stage to dance with the band in numbers so large that the security guards were overwhelmed and just let the people rock to the music. This was the ending on a magical evening and the audience was completely in the moment as they were transported back to the tour that should have been in 1972.
The video quality of the disc is above average for this type of production. It’s apparent from the menus and amount of extras on the disc that this DVD was done on a fairly small budget, but ultimately the music and the performance are what makes this disc a winner. Other than a few short interview clips with Astbury, Krieger and Manzarek and a photo gallery, there aren’t a whole lot of extras on the disc. There is a killer DTS 5.1 mix, as well as a Dolby digital mix that sounds pretty good, too. The performances by the band members are all awesome. There are a few musical blunders, but that is the nature of this kind of raw, emotional music. Although not a “jam band” by today’s standards, The Doors broke musical ground with their improvisational style that was inspired by jazz. They can go off on musical tangents and then bring things back in one fell swoop. Morrison was a poet first and a singer second. To have his words brought to a live audience again in the form of Ian Astbury is a real treat and should not be missed. If you have remotely any interest in The Doors, you need to do yourself a favor and buy this disc. Jim Morrison would love it and so will you.