Come On Baby Light My Fire!
Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL, June 24, 2003
Story and Photos by Andy Argyrakis
Up until the turn of the century, it’s been three decades since an incarnation of The Doors have performed together, as surviving members reeled from the death of its innovative sex symbol front man Jim Morrison venturing into solo and session projects. However, in keeping with the trend of nostalgic groups quick to cash in on their band’s brand name, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger saw fit to revive the flame that once burned bright throughout the tumultuous 1960s across a chart conquesting span of seven classic albums. On the band’s latest tour (comprised of past hits and a handful of new cuts) those two originals are joined by longtime admirer Ian Astbury (The Cult) on vocals, along with capable sidemen Angelo Barbera on bass and Ty Dennis on drums. (The previously hyped pairing with The Police’s Stewart Copeland on behind the skins fell through due to unrevealed differences, while original Doors drummer John Densmore recently lost a lawsuit hoping to strip this touring lineup of its moniker).
Regardless of all the recent scuffles and higher ratio of new members to old ones, The Doors circa 21st century was surprisingly well put together, not necessarily trying to revel in or recreate the past, but to take historical selections from the band’s catalogue and give them a modern day, pleasantly relevant face lift. Much of this came from the acquisition of Astbury’s rough necked baritone vocals and an all encompassing stage presence, who instead of emulating or imitating Morrison’s mannerisms interpreted the material with his own aggressive/alternative twist. Opening with “Roadhouse Blues” and moving through early evening hits “Break on Through (To the Other Side),” “When The Music’s Over” and “Love Me Two Times,” The Doors immediately justified its resurfacing, debunking claims of “glorified cover band” and “washed up has-beens” with nearly two and a half hours of blustery blues, psychedelic experimentations, and extended jams that seemed unique to this very show.
If anything, the band’s Chicago Theatre engagement showed just what fine players Manzarek and Krieger in particular were, not allowing their aging to slow them down one bit. The two continuously peered over towards one another with beaming smiles throughout the evening, clearly elated in the band’s perpetuation and faithfulness of the fans, despite their lengthy touring absence. And how couldn’t the audience be receptive as the duo was joined by an out of control Astbury for an extended version of “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” that not only rivaled its carousing aura of the band’s early years, but contained a lot more continuity and clarity that would have previously been impossible in the band’s tripped out and intoxicated younger years. The sobriety also let artistry take center stage over shock value or extracurricular antics, a much welcomed concept that surfaced especially during an acoustic, almost Vaudeville version of “People Are Strange.”
brief touchdown on the band’s yet-to-be-released new material (they are indeed planning on a full length album within the not too distant future) didn’t command nearly as much attention, seeming almost frivolous in comparison to remarkable recreations of “Riders on the Storm and “Light My Fire.” Whether extending the electric piano-driven hippy indulgences on the first or developing the latter into a fifteen minute session of reputable solos (complete with Astbury’s sampling of Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up”) The Doors’ spirit lived on in true form. If the rapid response from the Chicago Theatre congregation was any indication (certainly the most enthusiastic crowd the venue has seen since Beck and The Flaming Lips last year) this line-up will be back in action for good and on the rise even if it is the second time around.