“The movie will begin in five moments
The mindless voice announced
All those unseated will await the next show.
We filed slowly, languidly into the hall
The auditorium was vast and silent
As we seated and were darkened, the voice continued.
The program for this evening is not new
You've seen this entertainment through and through
You've seen your birth your life and death
You might recall all of the rest
Did you have a good world when you died?
Enough to base a movie on?”
Jim Morrison, An American Prayer
The night had arrived of the 40th anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death and I joined the back of an exceedingly long queue waiting for an hour or so to enter the realms of where the final celebration of this immense weekend would conclude. This was my fifth ‘Doors’ related music gig. Due to legal reasons, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger can no longer play under ‘The Doors’ name, previously playing under ‘The Doors of the 21st Century’, ’Riders on the Storm’ and ‘Manzarek-Krieger’, but tonight they were known as ‘Ray and Robby’. Unfortunately, drummer John Densmore has not played with them since they split after Jim’s death. These days they are joined by drummer Ty Dennis, bassist Phil Chen and tonight, the lead singer would be Dave Brock, a man who was the lead singer of American ‘Doors’ tribute band, ‘Wild Child’.
Apart from the obvious reason for the gig, there was another uniqueness about it, which I’d not experienced on the previous four. The venue was all standing, apart from the seating area on the terrace. The venue itself was very small, only 1500 or so in capacity. I’m still amazed that given their popularity and rank amongst the all time greats, they play venues of this size, when it was only ten years ago that they played Wembley Arena. As we packed ourselves in, the majority of people were eager to be hemmed in at the front, and that’s precisely where I headed to be able to absorb the atmosphere.
There was a high level of immense anticipation, which had been built up over the past two days, and the audience felt that it was going to explode within the confines of this small venue. The crowd began to get impatient as shouts of ‘Doors’, ‘Doors’, ‘Doors’ echoed through the auditorium. Suddenly, we were plunged into complete darkness and the crowd cheered furiously as the famous opera style haunting song of “O Fortuna” formed their entrance, typical of recent performances. It was incredibly loud and it was hard to believe that there were only 1500 people in here. The place was pitch black apart from a picture on the screen at the back of the stage, which seemed to be a collage that made up the face of God. As “O Fortuna” neared its end, the band came on to an almighty ecstatic applause and deafening screams. The House Announcer said, “Ladies and Gentleman, from Los Angeles, California, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger” and immediately, Robby launched into the cool rock opening guitar riff of ‘Roadhouse Blues’. This was the catalyst for complete pandemonium amongst the crowd as the screams rang out from every corner and everyone jumped up and down violently. This opening song, merged into the end of “O Fortuna” is one of the greatest entrances I’ve ever witnessed. The opening line was approaching and having not heard Dave Brock sing before, his biggest test was to come, and he didn’t disappoint as he screamed and bellowed the lyrics, whilst maintaining a stage presence, manner and look that could’ve been The Lizard King himself. As in previous shows with other singers, Brock turned the microphone to the audience and as we bounced about in abnormal jubilation, he shouted “Woke up this morning and I...” to which we responded, “..Got myself a beer!!” several times, and this just added to the intensity of the energy that was rapidly building up and spiralling out of control, in a revolt like manner, one that Jim would have been proud of. With the special occasion in place, I had never experienced such chaos. At previous ‘Doors’ gigs I’ve witnessed, the shows have been quieter affairs, yet still monumental. This was completely different, but despite my own inhibitions being let go to abnormal freak like levels, others were going far crazier than I was.
No sooner had ‘Roadhouse Blues’ finished, the notes were instantly played for the next song, ‘Break on Through’ and this was met with a similar reception of a complete free for fall in the crowd, as the great rock n roll tracks kept coming. ‘When the Music’s Over’ came on and this really was a special performance, with its slow eeriness, almost a poem within a song, very dark, yet very true to life, with lyrics such as , “Music is your only friend”, “What have we done to the world”, culminating with the perfect scream of “We want the world and we want it now, now, now, NOW!!” The sounds of Manzarek’s keyboard weirdly echoed a distressed butterfly, when the line, “I want to hear the scream of the butterfly” was uttered. The real genius of the song shone through as the band were playing at the top of the game. The screen at the back showed Ray and Robby earlier in the day by the grave, paying their respects to their best friend, a very touching piece of footage. Jim may have been lost in physical form, but his presence and energy was being felt in every one of us tonight.
In between the early songs, the crowd took it upon themselves to chant Robby’s name until he looked up and acknowledged the crowd with a comment of “Merci.” Then they turned to Ray, repeating his name until he waved and bowed in gratefulness. They both seemed embarrassed to receive such plaudits, even after being in the business for so long, but unpretentiousness is one of the many accolades ‘The Doors’ possess. The sixth song had been completed and the volume never dropped below magnificence as the crowd seemed to be under the influence of some sort of power that refused to let them relax for a second. The acoustics within La Bataclan were incredible as every song coupled with the crowd’s cries made the whole experience inconceivable. Ray Manzarek spoke and informed us that “In Jim’s honour, we are going to play the L.A. Woman album from top to bottom.” Unfortunately, Jim died days after the release and was never able to perform most of the songs on the album. The album was considered their second best and certainly has a more bluesy feel to it, a path that Jim wanted to explore and did so successfully. The key songs on the album are ‘L.A. Woman’, which was performed at the usual high pace, and met with the audience continuing to go crazy. Also, the famous eerie chilled out ballad ‘Riders on the Storm’, performed majestically in front of a wonder struck crowd.
This was the final song and when they disappeared off stage, the crowd demanded an encore, to which old favourite, ‘Love me Two Times’ was played first, one of Robbie Krieger’s songs that he wrote, and one where the guitar opening is edgy and fiery that kept the crowd rocking and singing along. After that, they launched into anti authority and rebellious rock track, ‘Five to One’, in which the screen showed pictures and video footage of the villains in power and the brutality of police forces back in the 60s and 70s. With this song now having a bassist present, it added another dimension when played live, and towards the end, the whole crowd was brought together by cheering and singing along repeatedly to the line, “Get together, one more time”. With only one song left to perform, there was only one it could be and “the time to hesitate was through” as they signed off to world famous summer of love song, ‘Light My Fire’, with all band members having the opportunity to perform individually as they were introduced to the crowd, Manzarek using his feet to hold the chords on his own solo, an impressive feat at the age of 72, yet still looking fantastic. The band left to rapturous applause of appreciation, and I was left stunned and over whelmed at possibly one of the greatest, highly anticipated and energised performances I’ve ever witnessed. The only disappointment was the lack of Jim Morrison images on the screen, only being seen once or twice in video clips, which still brought cheers whenever he appeared. However, he was in everyone’s thoughts and I’m sure that his spirit was present to ensure a night to remember. If this is the last milestone performance that the remaining ‘Doors’ members ever get to do, then it’s one that was a fitting climax. The night was truly set on fire!!!