Fans of the iconic rock group the Doors descended upon the Palace Theatre in Greensburg Friday night for a concert by Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger. There are two remaining Doors’ members, drummer John Densmore and Krieger. Lead singer Jim Morrison died in Paris in 1971 at age 27 and Ray Manzarek died in 2013. Manzarek and Krieger had performed the Door’s music as a band over the years, but Densmore mainly felt that that chapter was closed without Jim Morrison.
Krieger was never a flashy lead guitar player. He was a strong and steady player in the Doors and remains so today. He started out playing on a friends flamenco guitar, learned jazz, then moved onto rock guitar. Rolling Stone magazine has Krieger ranked no. 76 on its 2011 list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists.” The early flamenco and jazz influences make him a very versatile player. The Doors didn’t have a bass or rhythm guitarist when playing concerts so Krieger would often have to help fill in those musical notes.
Krieger and band kicked off the concert with “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” to the audience’s delight. The stage was minimally set with no backdrop, or special lighting effects. Stacks of speakers stood on the left and right sides of the historic Palace Theater’s stage. The large crowd of Baby Boomers enjoying a nostalgia trip and younger fans seeking rock and roll enlightenment enjoyed the focus being solely on the band and music.
Jamming on his Gibson SG guitar and dressed in light blue pants with splashes of color and a red tie-dyed T-shirt Krieger said, “It’s been 50 years since the first album (The Doors). Here’s one from the first album.” launching into “Alabama” (Whisky Bar) with its rollicking, staccato rhythm. Next up was their funky blues version of the Willie Dixon song “Back Door Man.” Krieger, who mainly plays on the right/center side of the stage moved forward to front and center so fans could have a better view of him playing guitar. Several frenzied fans ran down and snapped a photo with their smartphones.
Krieger said the next song was from the second album, Strange Days. He changed Gibsons and played “Moonlight Drive,” with a finger slide in amazing fashion. It was followed by”Wild Child.”
Original Doors’ band member’s can never be replaced. There is no one who compares with Jim Morrison’s charisma and rich, soulful voice or Ray Manzarek’s keyboard wizardry. And John Densmore’s excellent drumming. That said, all the members of Krieger’s band are high-grade musicians. His son Waylon is the lead vocalist and does a fine job, although, again, Morrison is irreplaceable. Ed Roth was very skilled in following the path blazed by Manzarek. The drumming was handled proficiently by Ty Dennis. On bass guitar was the noted, Phil Chen, who provided a good bottom for the band to play on. The original Doors didn’t use a bass player on the road. Manzarek would sometimes play a keyboard bass with one hand while playing regular keyboard with the other.
The recognizable guitar intro signaled the next song as “Twentieth Century Fox.” The drums, keys, and vocals soon kicked in for an outstanding effect. The crowd roared their approval.
Roth introduced the next song by saying it was Krieger’s favorite—”When the Music’s Over.” The song saw some great psychedelic-style guitar runs with Krieger using some pedal power. He even used both hands at one point to pick notes, simultaneously, high on the guitar’s neck. At one point Waylon asked for the stage lights to be shut off and for the crowd to be quiet. The band went to a slow steady tempo for about two minutes and then roared back at full blast. The long song contained some of the creative lyrics that Doors’ songs are known for: “Music is your only friend until the end.” and “What have they done to the earth, What have they done to our fair sister, ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her.” The song had several nice tempo changes and jams in several spots.
After “Peace frog” Waylon introduced “Riders on the Storm” as Manzareck’s favorite. It’s easy to understand why with its prominent keyboard parts. Introducing the next song, Krieger said it was about Los Angeles and they launched into “L.A. Woman.” Another lead guitarist came on stage to play a Gibson Black Beauty alongside Krieger. During the “Mr. Mojo Rising” (which is an anagram for Jim Morrison) part Waylon encouraged the audience to sing along, which many did. This was the last song of the main set and the band left the stage.
After a few minutes of cheering and clapping the band returned to the stage and played “Soul Kitchen.” The songs funky, rolling organ intro, driving drums, and powerful guitar got the audience going again. Soul Kitchen has some cool cryptic lyrics about “Learn to forget,” “Speaking in secret alphabets,” and “Stumbling in the neon groves.” Krieger had an explosive guitar run about midway through the song.
Krieger and other Doors’ members wrote, or contributed to creating new songs. One of Krieger’s biggest songs was their first big hit “Light My Fire.” The band continued to run on all cylinders with members jamming at full speed. Krieger snuck into his long guitar run on the song, snippets of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and The Sound of Music‘s “A Few of My Favorite Things.” It was a perfect song to end the night. Krieger’s set and encore was ninety minutes. Opening band Army of Optimism was enjoyable and their style of rock meshed well with Krieger and company.
Both the band and Doors’ fans had a great time. The group was loose and joked with one another about this being the first show that they actually stuck to their set list. Krieger mentioned that the audience at the Palace was the best one they have had on this tour. As talented as Krieger is on guitar, he was happy to step back and let everyone else shine too. The Doors’ created some of the top songs in the American rock lexicon, so any chance to see a Door and a great group is time well spent.
Rick Handler is the executive producer of Entertainment Central and enjoys great music.