Monday, August 13, 2007

Paul Rodgers, the Doors do justice to their pasts

Originally published on on Sunday, August 12, 2007

Review: Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger delivered moments of magic, but the Bad Company/Free vocalist lived up to top billing with a crowd-pleaser.
Special to the Register

One of the greatest bands of all time, the Doors left behind recordings that are a collective part of rock 'n' roll consciousness. Fans are not only deeply familiar with the melodies sung by the late Jim Morrison, they even know the extended keyboard solos crafted by Ray Manzarek and the flamenco-tinged fretwork immortalized by Robby Krieger.

Since Morrison's death in 1971, the Doors' music has had a lasting impact with audiences, rare and previously unavailable recordings still seeping into the marketplace (the latest from the band is Rhino Records' impressive two-disc "Live in Boston 1970," released just last month).
Further keeping the flame alive is Riders on the Storm, a tribute of sorts featuring Manzarek, Krieger and one-time Fuel singer Brett Scallions. (The Cult's frontman Ian Astbury was on board when this revivalist concept emerged as the Doors of the 21st Century earlier this decade.)

How carefully these Riders recreate the Doors experience in the '00s – as it attempted to do for nearly an hour Saturday night (Aug. 11, 2007) at Pacific Amphitheatre – likely may be a matter of debate, but Scallions is clearly a kindred spirit of the late Morrison. His thin frame, black attire and fluid stage movements helped bring plenty of energy to this performance.
His routine eventually faltered because his own voice failed as a substitute for Morrison's deep and resonant baritone. But the good news for Doors fans was that both Manzarek and Krieger were in excellent form, replicating and improvising around timeless riffs and melodies from "Break on Through," "Light My Fire" and "L.A. Woman" (the latter two both clocked in at around 10 minutes apiece).

But headliner Paul Rodgers was clearly the winner this night. Back to his solo ways after a well-received tour fronting Queen – and backed by a strong four-man band, with kudos to the dual guitar attack of Howard Leese and Kurtis Dengler – Rodgers performed his best-known hits from both Bad Company and Free during an 80-minute performance.
Long recognized as one of rock's greatest vocalists, Rodgers proved it again and again here with pitch-perfect renditions of "Rock and Roll Fantasy" and even more challenging fare, such as "Can't Get Enough," "Feel Like Makin' Love" and "Saving Grace." His set only gained momentum as the night wore on, and his vocal firepower was up to the challenge, leading the crowd through sing-alongs during "Shooting Star," "All Right Now" and "Bad Company."

But Rodgers really sealed the deal with an amazing vocal display during a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic "Little Wing," bringing both heartfelt emotion and dynamics to the piece.
Canadian singer-guitarist Pat Travers opened the night with a pleasing set of hard-rocking blues. Though most known for his cover of Stan Lewis' "Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)," that audience favorite was outdistanced by newer material such as "Crash and Burn" and "I Don't Care."

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