(Dion’s review was posted on The Official Doors Facebook and Myspace pages in January, 2011)
For hardcore Doors fans, attempting to locate a live recording of the band, aside from the official releases like “Alive She Cried” or “Absolutely Live”, (both which begot the double disc release of “The Doors, In Concert”), was next to impossible. Fans would have to scour the archives of back street music shops for bootleg recordings that would be sold at ridiculous prices, with the poor purchaser maybe only getting a pieced together ‘mix-tape’ (literally a cassette in some cases), of the band from various shows, usually mislabeled and second or third generation quality. For over ten years, this was my only source for hearing the band in action. I know, horrible. Then in the early 00’s the band started to open up the vaults and not only released some amazing shows, but completely re-mastered and uncut in form. This turned into the best thing since sliced bread and these steady releases has kept the voracious appetite of the super fan quenched, albeit down on a knee, begging of more.
The Doors “Live At the Felt Forum” the latest release in this series, is a six disc uncut recording, recounting the four shows the band performed on January 17 & 18th of 1970 at the Garden in NYC in the small Felt Forum theater, which kicked off their “Roadhouse Blues” tour, to promote the release of said album later that month. It ended up sadly being their last tour, culminating with their last performance with Jim Morrison on Dec 12th of that year, in New Orleans, where the now uninspired and depressed singer stormed off the stage after only performing three songs. The four shows at the Felt Forum, consisting of the 8pm early and 10 pm late shows from both nights, shows how amazing the band could be in peak form and is a stellar example of what proved to be one of their bests tours, which began to illustrate what direction the band wanted to proceed towards… What icon Bobby Bland once called, “the lowdown, funky blues”.
Totally dropping the entire selection of their last luke-warm release, “The Soft Parade”, (albeit “Wild Child” on disc two, which the band can’t seem to come together on and evidently abandon) the band goes back to the basics, playing stuff that first got them noticed. Disc one, the entire first show, gets the band rolling with great performances of “Break On Through” and “Five to One” and my personal favorite of the show, an absolutely beautiful rendition of “Blue Sunday” (a wonderful example of the brilliant nuisances of a live recording, being able to hear Morrison slightly off mike sing a note to get the right key before coming in with his first chorus). The band then reverts to their old days on the club scene, performing excellent covers of such blues staples as Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”, Willie Dixon’s classic “Backdoor Man”, Big Mama Thorton’s “Little Red Rooster”, the genre classic “Money”, and also shows their music diversity with the Kurt Weill cover “Alabama Song” from his “Three Penny Opera”, before “Light my Fire” and “Soul Kitchen” wrap up the show and disc.
Disc two & three, the bands second show, really have them fired up and totally ready to go, with Morrison asking how the audience is, before jokingly commenting on the bands last minute fine tuning of their instruments as “everything’s F***ed up as usual, you know?” They then rocket into an outstanding performance of “Roadhouse Blues”, which gets the audience on the edge of their seats and coming apart at the seams. They then plunge into an amazing set consisting of all phenomenal performances, with standouts like their never studio recorded “Build me a Woman”, John Lee Hookers classic “Crawlin’ King Snake”, and my actual favorite live version of “When the Music’s Over”(the highs notes he is able to reach in this version is breathtaking). “Light my Fire” is a great early example of the Doors’ leaning toward jamming on this tour, an idea that in my personal opinion, the band would of really went on to extensively explore, with Krieger’s nod to The Beatles with this venture into “Eleanor Rigby” in his solo. The fourth disc ends with the second shows last song, “The End”, which is probably one of the best performances of the song ever recorded. It begins with Morrison’s chanting “Bring out Your Dead”, the ominous phrased uttered by the corpse gatherers who dragged their carts through villages during the Black Plague of Europe. He we see the truth in the bands statement that they never played the song the same way twice, with Morrison cleverly interjecting new passages that he used in the old club days, before the climatic finish where you can literally hear him jumping around while yelping “Come on!!!” before the song’s incredible coda.
Disc four is the entire third show, with the rare gem “Universal Mind”; another never studio recorded song that the band only played a handful of times live. These concerts also show the interaction Morrison would have with the audience, and if one has a good ear, how rowdy the crowd could get at times, and Morrison’s joking and at times inciting them, which, as we all know, at some points got him in hot water.
Disc five & six is the last show, and my personal favorite of the box set. There is a palpable energy Morrison exudes in the performance, that really demonstrates the showmanship that made audience go wild. Though his voice is starting to show some fatigue from the passed two nights, the slight hoarseness really adds to the intensity of the performance. His improvisation and timing is spot on (his add in Alabama Song after the line “I tell you we must die-“ with “-Hope not!”, is priceless Morrison); and though his voice is worn, he somehow is still able to belt out those incredible high shrieks and really hit those upper notes, that exemplified how much range he had as a singer. “Peace Frog” is excellent, my personal favorite live rendition, before foregoing the normal “Blue Sunday” and diving straight into the “Alabama Song/Backdoor Man/Five to One” Medley, which such intensity that one is blown away by the power.
A huge highlight of this concert release is one of the few complete performances of “The Celebration of the Lizard”, a Morrison poetry epic that the band tried repeatedly to record for their third album “Waiting For the Sun”, which sadly never came to fruition. This version really shows the listener what Morrison wanted to achieve on those attempted aborted recordings and shows how tight the band could come together and have a cohesive idea that is executed faultlessly. Morrison’s wit is again on display, as he tells the audience to stand for a rendition of the National Anthem, asking the audience to ‘show some respect’ and ‘act like you’re at a football game or something’, before belting out his poem “Back when I was in Seminary School”, then going into “Light my Fire”. The show comes to an amazing climatic finish when the band calls up friends John Sebastion (who guest starred on harp for the bands studio recording on “Roadhouse Blues”) and Crosby, Stills and Nash drummer Dallas Taylor to jam to out finish the show, culminating with a great cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria”.
This box set is a must have for any casual Doors fan or hardcore fan who has, by some crazy reason, has yet to stumble across this amazing piece of history. The band is in top form, tight and very together; really showing a preview of what great concerts they will go on to before on the “Roadhouse Blues” tour, many of those performances like Detroit, Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, having already been released by the group on LP. But this is the show that started it all, and my gosh, what a show it is. A test of time for future generations to have a small glimpse into what it must have been like to see the Doors live, especially at such an intimate setting as this. Whoa, what an experience it must have been.~