THE DOORS 21st CENTURY
October 24, 2003
Chastain Park Amphitheatre - Atlanta
The Doors have always frustrated me. Ive always believed them to be pretentious, overrated and a bit ridiculous. On the other hand, there are some Doors moments that I know are pure brilliance. Even without the physical presence of out of control front man Jim Morrison, the new edition of the band maintains that unusual mix of fascination and frustration.
Keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger have recruited the former (and future?) front man of The Cult, Ian Astbury, to bravely fill in for Morrison and the trio is augmented by a rhythm section made up of Angelo Barbera and Ty Dennis. Launching straightaway into Roadhouse Blues, the middle-aged and older audience leaped to their feet. It sounded just as it did more than three decades ago. Ian Astburys voice and demeanor were always reminiscent of Morrison, even when the music was pure hard rock so hearing him with the music of The Doors behind him was a bit eerie.
For the first two songs, the singer stood rooted behind the mic. He appeared apprehensive and put off by the seated diners that made up the floor in front of him. During Peace Frog he started to awaken and during When The Musics Over, he became possessed. Whether it was with the spirit of Morrison or just the overwhelming madness of the music was unclear, but it was a staggering performance.
With the singer now pushing boundaries, guitarist Krieger started spinning as he dramatically un-tuned and re-tuned his instrument with a sly smile. On the other side of the stage, there was nothing sly about it, the 64-year old Manzarek was grinning and enjoying the moment as he created the carnival on acid swirls of sound that are his trademark. When the butterflies started screaming, the guitarist walked over and leaned in toward the keyboardist and they kept pushing each other further and further. Behind them, Astbury was twirling and stalking. Thats when I realized that what I was witnessing could, to my surprise, wind up being one of the best shows of the year.
Of course, that wouldnt be in the tradition of The Doors. No, they have a history of not living up to their potential. Tonight was no exception. After a joyful Love Me Two Times, Manzarek announced that they were for only the second time ever going to play the L.A. Woman album in its entirety. Apparently, they were planning on touring with Morrison that way, but Manzarek cryptically added that it didnt happen because Jim never came back from Paris. Its cool that the band was doing something so rare for Atlanta, but Ive got to tell you, some of those songs reeked of patchouli and pot-headed complacency.
Cars Hiss By My Window was a painfully boring, semi-poetic white boy blues that dragged down the momentum of the show exponentially with each passing verse. Crawling Kingsnake was pretty much the same. These just couldnt compare with the gems that were passed over. Instead of Light My Fire was Hyacinth House. In the place of Break On Through was The Wasp. Performing these deep cuts cost the show its shoe-in place near the top of the best concerts list. Some of it was good. LAmerica was almost frightening in its dark intensity and Been Down So Long was aggressive and lumbering. Thankfully, Riders On The Storm and L.A. Woman were in this section. The former was perfectly re-created. Ian Astburys voice didnt fit with this one as well as the other songs, though.
He did better on L.A. Woman which he announced as this ones for Jim. The pumping song was augmented by footage of people speeding through the city and livened things up just in time for the encore syndrome to begin. If so many obvious songs hadnt been deleted, the final songs wouldve been great choices, but sometimes when you want an apple, an orange wont do. Alabama Song and Back Door Man had the crowd riled back up and the hippie unity call Five To One kept them high, but an extended flamenco solo from Krieger that served as an intro to Spanish Caravan was anti-climactic, if not beautifully executed. When the audience realized that Soul Kitchen really was the end of the show, they went into denial. While the crew starting tearing down, people who had waited thirty years to see the band refused to believe that the band wouldnt reappear. Theres no way they would leave without playing Light My Fire one gray haired man in tie-dye said with watering eyes. Wrong. Like I said at the top, The Doors were always an intoxicating mix of frustration and fascination. In that sense, The Doors 21st Century is exactly the same band.
THE DOORS 21st Century Set List (Atlanta 10-24-03):
When The Musics Over
Love Me Two Times
Love Her Madly
Been Down So Long
The Wasp (Texas Radio & The Big Beat)
Riders On The Storm
Cars Hiss By My Window
Five To One