For some years now I’ve had a theory that Oliver Stone must have absolutely fucking hated The Doors to have made that movie about them. Portraying the singer as a bloated, detestable, pompous, ego-maniac shag-about and the rest of the band as a bunch of hopeless, space cadet, hired hands was certainly a brave move and the movie could hardly be construed as a love letter to arguably the most overrated band of all time (my opinion, not actually sure what Stone really thinks of them). After having witnessed one of the most jaw-droppingly insane rock ‘n’ roll shows I have ever seen last Saturday (and believe me, I go out of my way to watch crap – I once stood in a field watching Suede in the pouring rain for an hour and a half just to laugh at them), I think we can add Ian Astbury to the list people willing to character assassinate The Doors above and beyond the call of duty. His new role, on stage filling a dead man’s shoes, playing Jim Morrison in The Doors in 2006 (aka Doors of the 21st Century/Riders On The Storm/whatever they’re allowed to be called lawsuits pending and that), sees him standing there channelling the Lizard King himself, singing all those songs you hoped were dead and buried somewhere in Père Lachaise, hopefully alongside the master tapes of Morrison reading anymore fucking poetry. The gig is doubly weird if only for the fact that 2006 already saw Astbury revive his own back catalogue a couple of months back, exhuming The Cult for one more warp speed trip down a gothic metal memory lane. (I must also say at this point, a strangled good attitude has to go out to The Doors for getting the ever erratic Wolf Child in to belt out the numbers rather than doing an INXS style hunt for a singer, basically the musical equivalent of the BBC’s recent “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria” – actually, scrap that – can you imagine a TV show where the Pop Idol format goes out to find provincial Jim Morrison wannabees???? Fuck me, what a show!!)
Anyway, on with the story. The newly refurbished Roundhouse in Camden is the venue for a two night stand, including a New Years Eve gig. My friend Simon offered me a ticket, thankfully for the one on the 30th (spending NYE with The Doors or thereabouts is a joke too far even for me). With little else to do and a grim fascination to see how deranged this car crash gig, I headed down to watch the freakshow. Mr Mojo Rising is 45 minutes late taking the stage and the natives are getting restless. I’m sure you can picture what a Doors audience looks like in 2006 – grizzled, humourless, slightly confused – pretty much like a Doors fan from the ’60s I’d imagine only a bit paunchier.
Rumbling onto the stage with the kind of sound you get from a bad diet, they wallop their way through the hits, punters going suitably mental. That keyboard sound (only ever really practised by Ray Manzerek and Clint Boon of the Inspiral Carpets – cheers, both of you) is augmented by the bubbling cauldron of insanity that is Astbury, original guitarist Robby Kriger, a drummer (not the one who keeps suing them) and a Jamacian bass player (I know his country of origin because he’s introduced by Manzerek in patois). One guy seated a few rows in front of us starts doing that ‘wasp stuck in the head’ dance that mentalists do and, after a few minutes, loses his glasses off his face then proceeds to scrabble round on the floor for them while Astbury is encouraging the audience to roar their approval (they do), saying it’s a “exorcising a primal urge.” Christ Almighty, he’s even got the between song banter right! A frankly demented version of “Alabama Song” ends up sounding like a geriatric German Oompha band fronted by a battle wounded horse. Manzerek’s intro to “Peace Frog” is like pure primary school politics lesson, total gobbledegook, something about George Bush and Tony Blair and how if politicians just left us alone “we could all live in peace and harmony man.” Songs last a minimum of 10 minutes a piece, drawn out with yelping, keyboard squelching and noodling guitar solos, each angrily trying to drown the other out. From the frequent trips I make to the now empty bar, it’s pretty obvious that people are taking this all very, very seriously indeed.
One hour in and Robby Kriger (could have been Freddie Krueger for all I cared at this point) takes to the stage alone to play a flamenco guitar interlude. Astbury thoughtfully joins him in dance only after a few minutes, a Wirral born whirling dervish, so lost in his own world it’s almost possible to forgive him for the gig you’re witnessing. Next up, “People Are Strange” is played, band placed on stools at the front of the stage (the musicians shorthand for sensitive, for intelligent – Astbury did “Edie” like this at the Cult gigs recently and ruined it). By this point, I can’t take anymore. In the knowledge that they have yet to play both “Light My Fire” & “The End”, each so overripe for extending to the point where your brain angrily gives up and flatlines, I make my excuses and make a run for the exit, breathing in the fumes of Camden High Street.
Headphones in, Towers Of London album on, normal service resumed. Within minutes of leaving the gig, I’m actually starting to doubt that the gig ever happened, starting to think that I maybe dreamt up the whole thing in some feverish cheese dream. Surely no one in their right mind would ever have thought to do something so crazed as that? And even if they did, surely no one would go??? Oh, shit… I did.