The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl ‘68

Gala Theatre, Durham
21 April 2014
Director: Ray Manzarek
Starring: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger
Certificate: PG,  62 minutes

Don’t cancel your subscription to this resurrection. Instead, send your credentials to the nearest house of detention where this is playing, because The Doors: Live at the Hollywood Bowl is as close as people growing up in the modern age are going to get to everyone’s favourite psychedelic narcissists.

As their much-anticipated concert opens, you can tell they’re toying with the audience, ironically opening with their Strange Days closer, When the Music’s Over. A strong contender for the most self-indulgent of all Doors songs, it takes a while for Jim to kick it into action with a stunning leap across the stage, practically assaulting the microphone as he flies. A constantly magnetic presence, your eyes are locked on him as he sneers, broods, cackles and even nearly falls asleep centre-stage.

This helps this concert movie a lot, as the camera angles are the antithesis of varied. Directed by keyboard player, Ray Manzarek, he pulls off a hard job well enough, assembling the film to make an intermittently psychedelic experience. There are little slow-motion moments every now and again to spice things up, but the camerawork is redundant when Jim lets it rip.

Although not my favourite Doors song by a long shot, The Unknown Soldier is possibly the highlight of the concert. As the show requires no special effects, Jim and guitarist Robby Krieger re-enact a court martial on stage. Using a guitar’s riff as a gunshot, and having Jim probably hurting himself badly by throwing himself to the floor, it’s a lovely literalisation of the mournful story of the soldier who survives one bullet to be killed by another.

That being said, there are plenty high points. Light My Fire is made all the more entertaining when Jim slopes off to get a cigarette, gets someone in the audience to light it and then puts it in his ashtray, all during the ridiculously-long instrumental section. It’s this type of self-aware self-parody that makes The Doors so utterly charming; revelling in their own indulgence and taking the audience along for the ride (in their blue bus too-night).

However, in parts, The Doors’ self-indulgence gets the better of them. The opening number makes an extensively long song even longer by prolonging the middle section to an absurd length for the sake of Jim burping into the microphone. It’s funny while it lasts, but when you see how much time is devoted to it in the slight running time, it’s saddening to see that present instead of other classics that had been cut to make room for that.

Painfully short at 62 minutes, Live at the Hollywood Bowl makes you long for the rarer, extended cut that reaches 135 minutes. However, the time spent with Jim and co. is a pleasant stay nonetheless, made all the sweeter by the brief encounter you shared with him on the big screen.

Oh, and Jim’s grasshopper ramblings will be sure to light your fire if you’re a die-hard fan. (sorry, I just had to…)

For more information on events at the Gala Theatre visit their official website.

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