Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Doors – Live at Pittsburgh Civic Arena May 2, 1970

This document is of the Doors at their best! A great selection of songs – though not vastly different from the past live records – and super performances throughout.

Opening with their intense take on “Back Door Man”, the entire show takes on a bluesy r’n’r feel more than a psychedelic mood – though there is some of that, as well. I like how this moves into Morrison’s chant, “Love Hides”, similar to the Absolutely Live version. This then melds into their powerful “Five to One”, one of my favorite Doors’ songs. Jim is in fine voice this night, though he seems a little restrained overall – none of his trademarked screams in any of these tunes. Apparently, he was so over the top at some of the shows that they were sloppy disasters – this one he is reined in so that he is right on top of the songs, but is a little safe.

A strong reading of “Roadhouse Blues” follows – another one of their best! This is extended a bit and both Jim and the band are in superb form. A slow, almost rambling jam speeds up and – oddly enough – becomes “Mystery Train”! I had never heard about them doing this before so this was a neat surprise. This song is wildly different in their hands – Manzarek carries it for the most part, so just the fact that it changes from a rockabilly guitar piece to an organ-driven tune makes it very much their own. Ray really cuts loose on this, too – nicely done, as long as you’re not a purist! This eventually becomes “Away in India”, which is pretty much a Morrison-led jam, though he adds a nice melody to it. Actually the band really works together on this – cool accents and playing off of each other. This is a testament to a band that could “jam” and maintain an audience’s interest as they then move into “Crossroad Blues”, another unique version. Ray is still dominating overall but Jim is loosening up and seemingly really enjoying himself. Really great stuff!

A highlight for me of Absolutely Live was “Universal Mind” and this version is pretty similar of that nicely moody tune. The sound is solid throughout the record, apparently because this was the tour that the live record came from. This isn’t an exact copy of the other take, though, showing that they weren’t afraid to play around with the arrangements a bit from night to night.

“Someday Soon” is an unusual and fairly inconsequential song – not bad, just not up to their usual standards, which probably explains why it was left off of the official live record.

The band reaches its stride with their centerpiece, “When the Music’s Over”. Opening with Ray’s keyboard and then the magnificent combination of Krieger’s massive fuzz guitar and Jim’s unholy shriek, then they settle into this classic tune. Robby’s first extended solo is nicely demented and the quiet section fills with wails, feedback, and all manner of unearthly grunts and groans. Eventually, this moves into a dirge-like “Break on Through” before they build up a powerful jam with Morrison making up words on the spot and then, with split second precision (ok, I’m exaggerating a little), they jump back into the original song for the ending.

Jim does an almost word-for-word copy of Absolutely Live’s “tonight you’re in for a special treat”, making us realize that this was not as off-the-cuff as they make it sound. Good for the show, though! This is an intro to Ray’s lead vocal on Willie Dixon’s “Close to You”, showing that he was a accomplished vocalist, also, and once again showing the band’s blues roots.

The CD closes with their biggest hit ever, “Light My Fire”. Of course, everyone in the world knows this song and Ray & Robby take extended solos, as on the studio version, with new explorations.

Overall, great sound production on a cool live gig. The song selection has enough variation from some of the other records to make this one worth owning, as well as the others! Not a place to start but a fun document for fans.