Friday, May 18, 2007

The Doors @ Nokia Theater, 2 out of 4 Stars

Concert Review
Riders on the Storm
Nokia Theater
Times Square, New York, NY

Krieger and Manzarek. True music fans know exactly what kind of weight these two names carry in the annals of rock and roll. They are legends. But they are also one half, and only one half, of one of the greatest bands of all time.

The Dead has played without Jerry. Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend continue to tour as The Who without their rhythm section of John and Keith. David Gilmour and Roger Waters still tour, although not together of course. All of these lineups work and they even fill fairly large venues. What sets The Doors apart from all of these groups, I believe, is that Jim Morrison is the most irreplaceable cog in any band that ever performed rock and roll music.

But he's gone, he's gone, and nothing is gonna bring him back. So with that being said, I felt as though I couldn't pass up the opportunity to hear the two most important instrumentalists in the group perform on stage. For true live Doors music, this is the only option out there. John Densmore, the original drummer of The Doors, has been in a rather bitter dispute with his former bandmates so he unfortunately sat this one out.

Filling in for Jim Morrison was Brett Scallions, the frontman for modern rock band Fuel. The poor guy never stood a chance. Wearing leather pants and an open untucked white shirt, he paraded, growled, and warbled his way through The Doors catalog like a contestant on Rock Star Supernova. It unfortunately just wasn't happening.

But when the vocals were silent, pure magic was happening on stage. L.A. Woman was epic. Riders on the Storm, which included rain and thunder sounds to welcome the song, was sonically mysterious and dynamic. Spanish Caravan began with Robbie Krieger improvising a flamenco solo and flowing directly into the song with note-for-note perfection. Alabama Song, Touch Me, Peace Frog, and Five to One were phenomenal with all of the grit and swagger from the 60's versions. But even I wasn't prepared for how much the keyboard work in Light My Fire would just blow me away. Ray Manzarek owned that song. It wasn't a karaoke or backing track. He was improvising with fingers flying and eyes closed, even using one foot on the upper register of the keyboard to add additional layers and textures to the song. That was worth the price of admission!

It was pretty obvious after a few songs that Krieger and Manzarek weren't on stage for the paychecks (the venue certainly wasn't sold out) or note-for-note mailing-it-in versions of the songs. They were on stage because the fire never burned out for them. Losing Jim Morrison may have stopped their careers dead in their tracks. But the passion inside them was very evident on stage. The guitar licks and organ work fully transcended the fact that the lizard king was elsewhere.

Poor Brett Scallions. The most cheers he got all night were when he grabbed a fan's shirt and held it up for all to see. It was a picture of Jim. Brett did have a classy moment when he thanked Ray and Robbie for 40 years of Doors music. And hearing Ray tell a few Jim anecdotes further heightened my sense of awe in who was on stage.

To Brett's credit, he JUST joined the band and this was only his sixth show fronting the group. I also have read that he was a bit under the weather. Either way, it took balls to get up there, so for that I salute him.

Finally, the music was over and they turned on the lights.

Love Me Two Times/Break on Through/Peace Frog/Blue Sunday/Strange Days/When The Music's Over/Moonlight Drive/Wild Child/Spanish Caravan/Alabama Song/Back Door Man/5 To 1/Texas Radio and the Big Beat/Touch Me/LA Woman/Encore:Riders on the Storm/Light My Fire

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