The Doors – [Album]

Thursday, 09 December 2010

In 1969, the Doors decided to release a live album, and started recording all their concerts for it. The results were whittled down to the 1970 double album Absolutely Live. Other cuts were eventually released in the 1980s as Alive She Cried. Twenty years later, as the technology for both producing and distributing CDs changed, the remaining Doors started putting out entire concerts, some in widely available commercial releases, others primarily through their web sites ( and – Bright Midnight being their record label for these live releases). We now have many of the concerts they played during their final year of touring available to us.

Live in Vancouver is one of these concerts, but this one has been given a broad commercial push. This particular concert was probably chosen because it includes a guest appearance by blues guitarist Albert King (who opened for the Doors that night) although his presence is downplayed in the packaging of the CD. With King onstage with them, the Doors performed a set of blues tunes which included “Little Red Rooster” and “Who Do You Love?” while forsaking many of their own hits.

However, this was actually nothing new for the Doors. 1969 – 70 was a transitional period both for the Doors as a group, and especially for Jim Morrison as an individual. He was tiring of being a pop star, and wanted his art to be taken more seriously. In another year, this desire would take him to Paris to pursue a career as a poet (and, of course, to die young in a bathtub). But for now he merely covered his teen idol looks with a thick beard, and started singing the blues regularly. Many of the other concerts recently released also contain long sets of the blues.

With that in mind, Live in Vancouver is representative of a standard Doors concert from this period. The blues dominate, along with several of their longer compositions. The Doors performed both “When The Music's Over” and “The End” in this concert, stretching both well past their already lengthy album versions. Only three songs here could be considered “hits” – “Roadhouse Blues,” “Love Me Two Times” and the inevitable “Light My Fire,” which is also stretched out to nearly eighteen minutes.

Despite (or perhaps because of) this, Live In Vancouver 1970 is a powerful show. Doors concerts were unpredictable affairs and, while they played similar sets from night to night, the actual performances could take very different forms (at times, this depended on Morrison's alcohol consumption that night). This night all the Doors, including Morrison, are in top form. Kreiger's guitar sounds particularly fierce, Manzarek's organ is at times so far out it approaches the atonal, and Morrison improvises new lyrics throughout.

King's presence pushes the Doors to new heights here too. Not only do the blues numbers have an edge lacking on other live recordings (despite his obvious love for the form, Morrison was not a great blues singer), but the final half-hour-plus of the concert continues that energy and power. The jam on “Light My Fire” is especially intense; it starts out rather straightforward, but gets deeper and tighter as it develops, building to a fierce climax, then Morrison brings it back down, throwing snippets of “Fever,” “Summertime” and “St James Infirmary” in, before returning to the standard chorus. The live version of “Light My Fire” from Vancouver 1970 is dramatic and compelling, but it's an eighteen-minute “The End” brings the show to fitting climax.

A couple of caveats are in order. Like all Bright Midnight releases, this is the complete concert. Not just every song played, but every minute of dead air between songs, of tuning, of stage announcements, of Morrison rambling to the audience. This gives the CD a certain authenticity, but can become annoying after repeated plays through. Also, as might be expected, there are some minor technical issues, especially a microphone which sounds unable to handle Morrison's moments of screaming.

Also, again like all the Bright Midnight CDs, this is for the serious Doors fan. The casual fan is better off with one of the many greatest hits collections available, and the fan who wants to hear their first live Doors should get the double CD The Doors in Concert, which contains most of the tracks from both Absolutely Live and Alive She Cried. But if you are that Doors fanatic, the one who is going to appreciate an eighteen-minute jam on “Light My Fire,” the one who's curious about just how the Doors handled the old blues classics, or if you know one, this is a great addition to their catalog.



The Doors Live In Vancouver 1970 2CD is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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