The Doors: Live at the Bowl
by Buck Quigley
Fans of the legendary LA band the Doors will need a little patience at the start of this documentary. For the gazillionth time, keyboardist Ray Manzarek waxes philosophical in front of a camera and microphone about just how cool and important his band was. Guitarist Robbie Krieger joins in as they reminisce about this historic show that took place on July 5, 1968, at the Hollywood Bowl. Drummer John Densmore is also interviewed separately—suggesting that after all these years, he still feels a level of irritation toward his former bandmates. He bitches how the band never made set lists, this prominent gig being no exception. To make matters worse, he adds, frontman Jim Morrison was tripping on LSD during the show. One wonders if Densmore ever understood what his band was all about. Among others interviewed are the Chambers Brothers, the acid-soul performers who opened the show, riding on their hit “Time Has Come Today.”
As it turns out, all this back-story mercifully ends after 20 minutes, and we’re then treated to a vintage performance from a band at the height of its improvisational powers. When they were on, as they are here, the Doors really did break on through to a place where rock and roll, theater, and poetry could combine to take an audience to visceral highs and stark, dark lows. Looking back at the era, it’s hard to name another act that embodied the carefree sexiness of youth in songs like “Light My Fire,” while also dramatically commenting on the Vietnam War in “The Unknown Soldier.” Morrison’s magnetism is on display throughout. Dressed in a black shirt and brown leather pants with silver Navajo concha belt, he’s quick to crack a grin and able to laugh at his own Lizard King persona—like when he realizes, during an hallucinogenic monologue, that the grasshopper he has bent to pick up from the stage floor is actually a moth.
To watch this film is to be transported to an eerie time and place, as we witness a shooting star at the peak of his brilliance, strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage before flaring out in the end. Watch it this Saturday at midnight, at the Amherst Theater.
Watch the trailer for The Doors: Live at the Bowl '68
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