October 24, 2003
Chastain Park Amphitheatre - Atlanta


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The Doors have always frustrated me. I’ve 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.

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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 Astbury’s 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.

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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 Music’s 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.

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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. That’s when I realized that what I was witnessing could, to my surprise, wind up being one of the best shows of the year.

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Of course, that wouldn’t 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 didn’t happen because “Jim never came back from Paris.” It’s cool that the band was doing something so rare for Atlanta, but I’ve got to tell you, some of those songs reeked of patchouli and pot-headed complacency.

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“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 couldn’t 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. “L’America” 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 Astbury’s voice didn’t fit with this one as well as the other songs, though.

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He did better on “L.A. Woman” which he announced as “this one’s 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 hadn’t been deleted, the final songs would’ve been great choices, but sometimes when you want an apple, an orange won’t 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 wouldn’t reappear. “There’s 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.

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THE DOORS 21st Century Set List (Atlanta 10-24-03):

  1. Roadhouse Blues

  2. Peace Frog

  3. When The Music’s Over

  4. Love Me Two Times

  5. The Changeling

  6. L’America

  7. Love Her Madly

  8. Been Down So Long

  9. Hyacinth House

  10. The Wasp (Texas Radio & The Big Beat)

  11. Riders On The Storm

  12. Cars Hiss By My Window

  13. Crawling Kingsnake

  14. L.A. Woman


  1. Alabama Song

  2. Backdoor Man

  3. Five To One


  1. Spanish Caravan

  2. Soul Kitchen