August 9, 2008

Doors Classics Suffer Without Morrison

By Joe Sweeney

LOCKPORT - When it comes to The Doors, I've got an unpopular opinion: While they were a mesmerizing, trailblazing band like no other, their iconic lead singer, Jim Morrison, is somewhat overrated.

I know - his dark, booming voice is oft imitated and never matched. And yes, it's one of the sexiest in rock history. But Morrison could have benefited from a lesson in subtlety - check his drunken, Vegas-ready crooning on "Touch Me" or his inexplicable, kind-of-hilarious poetry slam "Horse Latitudes."

On Friday night at the Molson Canal Concert Series, my Morrison skepticism was put to the test as Riders on the Storm treated a gigantic crowd to a healthy helping of Doors classics. A project led by original Doors members Ray Manzarek (keys) and Robby Krieger (guitar), Riders attempts to recreate some of the '60s' most inspired head trips without the voice that made them famous. In place of Morrison was Brett Scallions, best known as the lead singer of the pedestrian post-grunge band Fuel. To say Scallions had big shoes to fill would be an understatement.

Say what you will about Manzarek's and Krieger's traveling nostalgia fest; it's a thrill to see them perform together. Morrison may have been the magnetic superstar that made The Doors legendary, but Manzarek made the band original. By pairing the traditionally pious sounds of organs and harpsichords with his singer's loose cannon of a voice, the keyboardist made his group more than just another testosterone factory. The Doors may have been influenced by the same blues and R&B artists that inspired The Rolling Stones, but their formula was decidedly different.

And as Riders on the Storm took the stage to the choral bombast of Carl Orff's "O Fortuna," Manzarek and Krieger showed they still had some magic left. Opening with the irresistible country-blues of "Love Me Two Times," Manzarek led the quintet with his trademark harpsichord runs, while Krieger's squiggly guitar riff was as charming as ever. But then Scallions started singing - and I started to eat crow.

It's unfair to compare this guy to Morrison, but it's impossible not to. As he worked his way through "Two Times" and subsequent songs such as

"Break On Through" and "Peace Frog," his voice didn't have the timbre or the drama that this job requires. Scallions hit all the notes he was supposed to, but his voice is suited for the glossy modern rock that put him on the map, not ambitious, narcotic '60s masterpieces.

The highlight of the set was an engrossing version of "When the Music's Over," which once again showcased Manzarek's and Krieger's uncanny abilities. But when it came time for Scallions to deliver the line that precedes the extended tune's blissful release - "We want the world, and we want it now" - he just growled his way through it, completely wasting the pregnant pauses that Morrison milked so beautifully.

At this moment, I was forced to rethink my position on The Lizard King.


Riders on the Storm

Friday night as part of Molson Canal Concert Series at Ulrich City Centre courtyard, Lockport.

Originally published by NEWS CONTRIBUTING REVIEWER.

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