May 15, 2015 Robby Krieger of The Doors magical at The Paramount Huntington, NY 4-7-15
Following his successful 2014 tour with Robby Krieger’s Jam Kitchen, the Rock and Rock Hall of Fame guitar legend has taken to the road again in 2015. With a different configuration from last year’s lineup, the Spring tour was billed as “An Evening of The Doors’ Greatest Hits,” and features Robby’s son Waylon on vocals, Nathan Wilmarth on keyboards, Phil Chen on bass, as well as Ty Dennis on drums. Now over four decades since the passing of poet and iconic vocalist Jim Morrison, The Doors are one of the most storied bands in Rock history, known for their chaotic mix of Blues, Psychedelic, Rock, Folk, Jazz, and any other style that tickled their fancy at the moment. Releasing an astounding eight albums in a four year period, the band would attain multiple platinum sells and achieve unforgettable singles that defined the era. Coming to The Paramount in Huntington, NY, on Tuesday April 7th, it would actually be Krieger’s first return to the theater since September 28th, 2012 when he played with original organist Ray Manzarek. Sadly, in the Spring of 2013, Manzarek passed on at the age of seventy-four, but Krieger carries on The Doors’ memories, and this Long Island crowd was ready for the journey.
First up was New York City based four-piece Rock band Silverbird. Led by guitarist/vocalist Tim Barr, whom played in clubs as part of Lana Del Rey’s band, Silverbird is completed with Corey Davis on bass, Dan Whaley on lead guitar, and Jacob Schuab on drums. Familiar with the stage of The Paramount, having opened for Dennis De Young a year prior, Silverbird seemed excited to be back at the venue. Taking a mix of Classic Rock and combining it with mix of modern Alternative Rock, the band immediately captivated the audience with their original songs from their debut EP, Surface Face. With vivid textures of Barr’s unique singing voice, combined with rhythm and lead guitar, Silverbird takes the subtly of Radiohead and combine it with the energy of U2, along with everything in between. Silverbird melded Folk-tinged Rock with Punk Rock attitude for a thoughtful, high-octane set. Those interested in atmospheric Rock should give Silverbird a listen.
Next up, was Bostonian band, the Adam Ezra Group. Also very familiar with The Paramount, Adam Ezra Group has graced the stage of the venue on numerous occasions in recent years, and their popularity in New England has spread like wildfire across the Long Island Sound. Bringing their Hippie-flavored sound and style to the stage for an eclectic mix of Folk, Alternative, and Rock featuring a wide variety of instruments including bongos, banjo, and harmonica, the band brought on a Roots-Rock party. Opening with “Life of a Thief,” the band immediately went into the toe-tapper “Let Your Hair Down.” As vocalist/guitarist Ezra orchestrated a positive reaction as a frontman, his band provided electrifying instrumentation from the fiddle playing of Corinna Smith to keyboard playing of Josh Gold, bass playing of Francis Hickey, and drumming of Turtle as well as Alex Martin. Going on to play other tracks like “Burn Brightly” and “Steal Your Daughter,” Adam Ezra Group had the audience firing on all cylinders. The band will return to The Paramount June 5th when they support Rusted Roots, so be sure to check them out.
After two fitting opening bands as a table setter, fans were ready to dive into the the world of The Doors with Krieger and company. With a broad range of spectators in the crowd, it was easy to see the impact the music of The Doors makes generation after generation. Kicking off the performance in proper fashion, the band began with first track from the Doors’ 1967 self-titled debut, “Break On Through (To the Other Side).” The familiar intro drew a roar from the crowd as Waylon Krieger set the tone for the night, with a tight blend of vocal styles, showing his range from the gentle opening to the ensuing roar. This was followed by the upbeat jaunt of “Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar),” another selection from the debut. Wilmarth nailed the side-show key punches to perfection, eliciting feelings of being in an old Honky-Tonk in southern Mississippi. Songs about alcohol always draw the crowd into a fervent sing-along, and this was no exception. A rip-roaring take on “Back Door Man,” allowing Krieger to flaunt his penchant for tasty Rock-based Blues playing. While most guitarists from that era stuck to the basics when it came to the Blues, Krieger always bent tradition with heavy, multi-note runs that would not be out of place on the best of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal at the time. As the band took on this Blues number, Krieger took over the song with unabashed force.
“Moonlight Drive,” from the Doors’ 1967 album, Strange Days, which was released later in the same year as their debut, originally released as the B side to the smash hit “Love Me Two Times,” was propelled along by Dennis’ precise military shuffle on drums. While Krieger punctuated the rhythm with darting sounds on guitar, son Waylon pushed along the proceedings with a passionate vocal, mixing in lyrics from another track off of Strange Days, “Horse Latitudes.” This led right into “Wild Child,” another B side from a huge, Krieger-penned hit “Touch Me.” The dark, menacing, sinister melody was laid down by Wilmarth with Krieger accenting it on guitar, while Dennis ignored all the rules of composition and managed to be both all over the place and right on time throughout. It was a powerful rendition of a song that had all the elements of the band’s classic work.
A sprawling “When the Music’s Over” allowed the group to show its versatility as the music careened from a feverish, wailing pitch to effects-heavy other-worldly noise Rock and then back again before closing with a dizzying solo from Krieger. After asking the crowd for requests, the band tore into fan favorite “Peace Frog” from 1970’s Morrison Hotel LP. Although never released as a single, the track is a staple on FM radio. The bouncy melody, punchy, wah-wah guitars, and jangly drumbeat got the crowd moving in a hurry. “Love Me Two Times” found Krieger and Wilmarth playing call and response throughout as the studio version was tossed aside for an expressive improvisation.
Krieger then eschewed his iconic Gibson SG for an acoustic guitar as the band played “Spanish Caravan” with Krieger laying down soulful Flamenco fingerpicking throughout, including an extended solo. They quickly got back to the hits with “Riders on the Storm.” The brooding track, coupled with “Spanish Caravan,” was a well-placed cool down after the torrential start to the show. Again showing why the Doors were so widely adored, the expansive track was very divergent from the upbeat rockers that preceded it. The crowd showed their appreciation for the band’s flexibility by taking a collective breath and nodding along. The rest would be brief as the rapid-fire “Love Her Madly” followed with the band absolutely smoking on the brash rave up. Set closer “L.A. Woman” had the crowd participating as they sang “Mr. Mojo Rising” with force and exuberance. Another song that showcased the complexity of the classic Doors lineup found Krieger once again playing extensive solos over jazzy, Honky-Tonk keys.
Returning for more, the first of two encores began with “Soul Kitchen,” which is a heavy-handed bastardization of the popular sound coming out of England’s Blues scene at the time, and it was a unique take on the Blues-Rock explosion of the time. Waylon Krieger’s throaty take was commanding as his father meandered between a punchy Blues riff and effervescent soloing as he took control of the high register of his cherry guitar. The early mentioned “Touch Me” would close the show with every member contributing a solo, and Krieger taking several stretched out turns in the spotlight. Clocking in at well over fifteen minutes, it was astounding as, at that point, the band was closing in on the two hour mark. Written by Krieger, the song, in this expanded form, flawlessly summed up the genius that was The Doors.
Playing lead guitar for one of the most revered groups in the history of Rock-n-Roll, and that band’s career ending over forty years ago, too often leads to one of its founding members either calling it quits or continually churning out music that attempts to reignite the flame, but never quite catches fire. Robby Krieger continues to not only tour and produce new, vibrant, edgy music, but he has carried on the legacy of The Doors through spectacular live shows featuring the band’s catalogue, keeping it fresh with different interpretations and loads of free form improvisation.