It’s rare that Mudkiss review cover bands, and in general they aren’t something I ardently look for as a fan or as a journalist, but on a scorching summers evening in Salford Quays, something enticed me to ‘The Doors Alive’, ‘Perception’ show at The Lowry, where the glorious weather resembled an evening on Venice Beach, California, where ‘The Doors’ were based and influenced for the majority of their career. Was I here because I regard ‘The Doors’ as one of the most inspirational bands ever? Or was it because of the emotion I’d felt at the passing of flamboyant keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, only a couple of months earlier, making me feel an arbitrary need to sit in on a religious ceremony of his music that he helped create. Alternatively, was it the fact that the show was to be performed two days after the 42nd anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death? The truth is that I was influenced by a combination of all three aspects, coupled with the promise that the show was billed to be more than an average gig, but more of a theatrical show that timelined ‘The Doors’ history
Many people who were present to pay tribute wore variations of ‘Doors’ and Morrison t-shirts. Considering the band were a major force in the 1960s, the age range of the crowd didn’t emulate that elapsed time, as rockers ranging from mid-20s to mid-50s seemed to form the core of the audience, showing evidence that every generation needs and latches onto the music and words of ‘The Doors’.
The setting for this unique experience was in a theatre that was sophisticated, and quite small in comparison to venues in Manchester centre. There was a ring of three upper tiers that helped everyone be as close as possible to the action onstage, with the stage itself being quite large with an American flag lay draped over a large amp towards the back. The lights duly dimmed and Jim Morrison spoke to us from beyond the grave with words that had been immortalised from his ‘American Prayer’ poetry book. The screen at the back lit up and provided footage and images of California in the 1960s to Morrison’s words, leading to the instrumental of ‘Moonlight Drive’ as an overture, fitting really as it was this song that sparked Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison to form the band when Jim sang these lyrics to Ray on Venice Beach.
From there the band arrived on stage, saving Jim (William Scott) till last, who dressed in the token leather pants and baggy blue shirt, a symbolic image of Jim in his earlier years. They start with the timeless ‘Break on Through’ to pump the audience up, before playing a series of classics from the first album, ‘The Doors’, including ‘Soul Kitchen’, ‘20th Century Fox’ and a great merge of ‘Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)’ and ‘Backdoor Man’, something the original band created at live shows.
What immediately strikes me from these early songs is the fantastic musicianship and chemistry these guys possess. Every note is played to perfection, and it’s almost like listening to the original band play in the studio. If the three musicians didn’t look like their counterparts, they certainly dressed and sounded exactly the same. However, in William Scott we find a remarkable resemblance to Jim Morrison, not only in terms of singing voice, but also in look, attire, walk and stage movement. If you squinted to blur out the lines of perception, you’d be forgiven for thinking Morrison was really there, returning from the grave for one last gig!
Songs off the ‘Days’ album followed with classics such as ‘Love Me Two Times’, which in typical Jim Morrison style, Scott sang and teased to a couple of women at the front of the stage! This was followed by the haunting ‘Strange Days’, which led to the epically long, psychedelic track, ‘When the Music’s Over’, a classically written and lyrically flawless song about music being you’re only friend, and what we do to the world to harm it, a concept just as appropriate today as it was in the 1960s. The song was backed with an evocative golden red sunset on the back screen, which was mirrored by a haunting redness that seared the stage! As the song finished, the crowd gave its biggest cheer of the night thus far.
The lights were dimmed again to leave further poetry readings from Morrison with psychedelic images perforating the screen behind, leading us hypnotically to the eerie ‘Not to Touch the Earth’, one of the creepiest and weirdest ‘Doors’ tracks ever written from the ‘Waiting for the Sun’ album. To say the band nailed it would be an understatement as it was better than what I’d heard the original band do as the crescendo reached peaks that had the crowd fearing for their lives. Scott proceeded to dance like an Indian in the centre of the stage, a trait commonly known to Jim, and a key part of the movie where Ray Manzarek realises the spiritual significance of Morrison whilst this particular song is played live. It was a truly magnificent portrayal of a song that doesn’t get as much credit as others, but for the most ardent of fans that were present tonight, they raised the roof by giving it one of the biggest applauses of the evening, ending with Scott stood at the front of the stage as a dominant presence, stating, “I am the Lizard King, I can do anything!”
Songs of their third album continued in the form of ‘Hello I Love You’ and ‘Unknown Soldier’, a song about the military influence in Vietnam that again holds some significance today. The spotlight remains on Scott as he croons through the verses, and it’s scary to see the silhouette behind him make out what could be Jim Morrison’s shadow. The band even re-enact what ‘The Doors’ did on stage where Robbie Krieger pretends to shoot Morrison in the head using his guitar as a makeshift rifle, causing Morrison to elaborately fall to the fall and writhe whilst continuing to sing the song. Another war inspired track follows in ‘Five to One’, offering more pulse and grit, resulting in Scott’s jacket being thrown off to reveal a plane white shirt. ‘Touch Me’ from the ‘Soft Parade’ album, the fourth release, follows, which leads to a second epic track that ‘The Doors’ wrote, in the form of ‘The Soft Parade’, again performed exquisitely.
The song that could be seen as symbolic of the tortured madness in Jim Morrison’s head, acting as a spiral to him being out of control, was then mirrored by a wardrobe change from William Scott. He now wore a leather jacket and shades, keeping the leather trousers and distinctive belt. This seemed to capture a different age of Jim, the stoner Jim, as black shades were worn to hide drug induced eyes. If Scott had a strong resemblance to Morrison beforehand, then this attire really brought out a scary similarity, especially with the beard and long hair in tow that was associated with this look.
Songs of their third album continued in the form of ‘Hello I Love You’ and ‘Unknown Soldier’, a song about the military influence in Vietnam that again holds some significance today. The spotlight remains on Scott as he croons through the verses, and it’s scary to see the silhouette behind him make out what could be Jim Morrison’s shadow. The band even re-enact what ‘The Doors’ did on stage, where Robbie Krieger pretends to shoot Morrison in the head by using his guitar as a makeshift rifle, causing Morrison to elaborately fall to the fall and writhe whilst continuing to sing. Another war inspired track follows in ‘Five to One’, offering more pulse and grit, resulting in Scott’s jacket being thrown off to reveal a plain white shirt. ‘Touch Me’ from the fourth album follows, which leads to another epic track that ‘The Doors’ wrote in the form of ‘The Soft Parade’, also the title of the album, which was again performed exquisitely.
A short break ensues and we return to more excerpts of Jim’s poetry to images bombarding us on the screen. The musicians return and begin to play the boozy classic, ‘Roadhouse Blues’ off the ‘Morrison Hotel’ album, before Scott appears with a bottle of whisky in hand, cowboy style hat on, wearing a sandy, orange jacket, mimicking a drunken Jim onstage. He even manages to get his movements of being drunk and disorderly spot on as he ambles about around the stage…or was he really drunk?!! One thing was clear! He’d certainly done his homework! Due to the rock n roll nature of the song (my personal favourite rock n roll track and drinking tune of all time), the crowd that saw only a few people dancing in act one, had now come alive (she cried), and many more were up at the front and in the aisles, dancing in that eloquent, hippy style attributed to the 1960s. The end of the song was met by Scott asking, “Are you having a good time?” Sounding exactly like Morrison himself in that forceful, drunken ranting style voice he had at live shows! This version of Jim seemed to be one that spiralled out of control through alcoholism, an alter ego, known to his drinking buddies as ‘Jimbo’.
Tracks from the final album, ‘LA Woman’, made up the final few songs of the show. Firstly, ‘The Changeling’, which had images of money, sex and Vegas on the back screen. The eerie ‘Riders on the Storm’ was deliciously portrayed in a typically chilled out manner that relaxed the crowd into a natural high. The grand finale shifted them out of that peaceful state as ‘LA Woman’ rumbled along with everyone back up dancing, screaming the lyrics as the trip climaxed with everyone shouting, ‘Mr Mojo Risin’, an anagram of Jim Morrison. It was like we’d been transported back to 1960s California given the passionate level the band sang at, coupled with the sudden burst of the crowd’s energy. The band exited the stage to tremendous applause, and left us with a short and sweet statement lingering on screen, one of Morrison’s own philosophies, ‘The future’s uncertain and the end is always near!’ An encore followed, beginning with the definitive summer of love track of 1967, ‘Light My Fire’, the radio version, not the long drawn out instrumentals the original band used to do at live shows back in the day. Scott encouraged the audience to bellow the chorus instead of him, which we couldn’t help but oblige! ‘People are Strange’ followed and the crowd, who’d clearly been buoyed by asking to sing on the previous song, carried on the trend as the lyrics echoed around the auditorium.
There was still time for one final surprise and finale. Whenever I’d seen the remaining ‘Doors’ play, they stated that they couldn’t bring themselves to play a certain song as it was a song which belonged to Morrison, that only he could sing. Being a tribute band, no such constrictions were in place so they launched into one of the eeriest, most disturbing, troubled, provocative, offensive and most legendary songs of all time, ‘The End’! I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing what was my favourite song of all time played live before, and if the remaining ‘Doors’ couldn’t do it, then this was certainly the next best thing. From the first wiry strum of the guitar, goose bumps rippled down my body. A solitary eagle appeared on the screen behind, emulating the music’s slow and unnerving rhythm, as if the two were connected. Scott’s voice was sublime, a true homage to Morrison’s lasting legacy. The song is famous for being ad-libbed in the studio as the band tried to work out where Morrison was taking it, but the way the band played, it was as if they’d written it themselves. The second part of the song came in to a barrage of drums, and the image on the back shifted to a tribesman dancing. The song continued to carry on as we approached the lyrics that are surely the most controversial of all time. Would William Scott sing the infamous line that had to be recorded with a scream for both live and album versions? The first part arrived, “Father? Yes son? I want to kill you!” In almost the next breath, he screams, “Mother?!” We all waited in anticipation, before he continued…. “I want to……Fuck you all night baby! Come on baby!” He actually sang the lyric, and much of the crowd may have been stunned by this just as they were over forty years ago when it was first uttered at the ‘Whisky a Go Go!’ Given the complicated nature of the song, full credit to the band for making it sound just like the original, I imagine it being no easy feat!
It was a fitting end to a truly remarkable performance, and the crowd showed their appreciation by clapping and cheering for a prolonged period of time at the end. I’ve always been aware of ‘Doors’ cover bands, but I’d always preferred and been privileged to see Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger perform live as ‘Ray and Robby’ at various places around Europe. With the tragic recent passing of Ray, and the sad realisation that I’ll never get to see them again, this is more than the next best thing. Even though this is a cover band, the sound is uncannily similar, and sometimes even better! My attitude has certainly changed and the doors of perception have well and truly been cleansed! This is a must see for any ‘Doors’ fan around the world!