A weekday urge to put on L.A. Woman had me thinking and talking about The Doors for the rest of the week – including a comment from film and music critic Lynden Barber that “the only Doors album I’ve never been able to get into is Soft Parade”, to which I could only respond “it has its moments, unexpectedly the cabaret bits”.
Something of that, the cabaret bits at least, connected to this review in 2005 of a version of The Doors. Or a half Door you might say, given both Jim Morrison (not alive) and John Densmore (not interested) were absent, leaving Ray Manzarek (who would died eight years later) and Robby Krieger (still standing as of this week, aged 77) to carry the flame.
They had a new rhythm section and a new singer. They were now called The Doors Of The 21st Century. They were, well, a mixed bag. But did it matter?
THE DOORS OF THE 21ST CENTURY
Sydney Entertainment Centre, February 23, 2005
ABOUT TWELVE YEARS AGO I watched the kings of the local tribute band circuit, The Australian Doors Show, play to a packed room at a suburban beer barn. The audience reacted as if they were watching Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and John Densmore in the flesh: virtually storming the stage, singing along lustily and raising their glasses of bourbon and coke at the parade of well-known songs.
This week at the Entertainment Centre much the same type of audience were reacting much the same way to much the same kind of band.
Is that too harsh? Are The Doors Of The 21st Century a very good covers band or something else? After all there’s Krieger and Manzarek, not just original members but two principal songwriters of the group. They can still play with flair too: Manzarek doing bordello piano runs and guitarist Krieger ripping through a blues riff such as the short but impressively nasty one in Backdoor Man.
As the opening Roadhouse Blues showed, the imported rhythm section of Phil Chen on bass and drummer Ty Dennis has plenty of power (though someone forgot that Dennis is a rock drummer while Densmore was something quite different). And Ian Astbury, who everyone keeps insisting isn’t trying to channel Morrison despite looking, sounding and even moving like him, has the requisite growl down.
All parts accounted for then.
Except for the elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge: the big emotional gap at the centre of all the songs. The bit where we connect with the person who gave us that song, in most cases the singer.
It’s the emotional centre which separates a covers band (who may indeed play the songs better) from the real thing (who made you care for the song in the first place). It’s the difference between recent tours by Arthur Lee of Love and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and this version of The Doors.
It’s the difference between reliving your youth and merely remembering it.