Recollections Of Rock Theater
By now, they have become the greatest rock performers I have ever seen, probably because they are as spectacular theatrically as they are musically. (One contrast on this last score is Procol Harum, who turn out to be on stage a bunch of rather uptight Englishmen.) Both Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek are a pleasure to watch – Morrison for all his bisexual suggestiveness, his crotch stuffed to suggest a permanent erection (in the male version of ‘falsies’), and Manzarek for his evidently intimate relationship with his instrument. The organist also has an engaging throaty voice which complements Morrison’s nicely. Manzarek’s trick as an instrumentalist seems to be positing a riff and then doing rather academic variations on it. He knows how to exploit his two electric keyboards, placed one atop the other, for a variety of timbres. In a recent issue of Cheetah, one critic made a case for Robby Krieger as the best musician, but I could hardly hear him from where I was sitting, even though every move of his that I could see looked like it sounded stunning. In performance, the groups renditions of their recorded songs are invariably more extravagant – this evenings “Light My Fire” made even more blatant the orgasms represented in the instrumental interludes. In these last sections, the Joshua Light Show was equally spectacular (and it is gratifying to see that Bill Graham, who turns out to be younger and more clean shaven that I imagined, gives the light show bottom billing on the theater’s marquee). The Doors also presented a film sequence in the background to accompany “The Unknown Soldier.”
The group was called back for two encores, both of which were extensive and slap-happy. For the first they brought out a bottle of New York State (Morrison said) champagne, from which they sipped for the rest of the evening, occasionally pouring some on the floor or on one another, much like victorious athletes do. Then Manzarek did a talking blues, seeming extemporaneous, about how hippy was really a straight person and, if he accepted this, he would be a better human being (and by, extension, maybe as prosperous as Manzarek). Toward the end of this bit, Morrison proclaimed, away from the microphone but audibly enough to be heard, that this patter wasn’t true for him. He then began his own talking blues purportedly about a more direct truth, which of course turned out to be sexual intercourse. (His arrest in New Haven for making love backstage to an undergraduate was too appropriate to be anything but true, even if he did eventually forfeit bail). This very long song was hairy as hell, in a tasteful and unobvious way, as it became ever more apparent to the audience staying past the customary closing time of 3:00am that these Los Angeles boys were about to give New York the greatest rock concert they had ever seen. It ended at 3:45 in the morning. Watching the apprehensive faces of spectators who wondered how they would get home at this late hour, I was grateful that I lived around the corner.