Richard Price: Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger at the Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, CA Saturday 8/20/11

August 30, 2011
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I never thought that I'd hear those songs played live. Or played that well live. Manzarek and Krieger still have their considerable chops. "Roadhouse Blues" was raw and lively. Robby's roaring guitar in "When the Music's Over" was simply an exhilarating rock moment. Manzarek's keyboards were somewhat understated, but his sense of tonal coloring and timing were like running into an old friend. His persona of a post-acid master of ceremonies (who didn't take himself or anything else seriously) kept things loose. The guitar and keyboard interplay in "Love Me Two Times" and "Riders on the Storm" were worth the price of admission. The band played a lot from the L.A. Woman album, plus most of the songs that you'd expect. The segue from the raucous "Peace Frog" dropping into "Blue Sunday" was just lovely. The last encore, "Light My Fire" (what else?), featured some extended instrumental interplay that varied the most from the standard versions of songs.

The guest lead singer, David Brock, was in a tough situation. It's inevitable that either he'd blamed for being an imitator or criticized for insinuating his own creativity on tunes that fans know note for note. Clearly he's studied plenty of Jim Morrison footage and he looks the part. He nails old Snake Eyes' mannerisms and prowls the stage. His presence seems so authentic that it's a little unnerving. He lacked only the leather pants and Morrison's penchant for inciting the audience. The thing is, he sounds really good—probably better than Morrison did at many performances during his short life when he was wasted out of his gourd. Brock filled in the lead spot for a missing legend and made it work beautifully. That was the biggest and pleasantest surprise of the evening.

Phil Chen and Ty Dennis provided an authoritative thump on bass and drums, respectively. Dennis nailed John Densmore's best-known licks. Chen had the distinction of recreating the bass sound of a group that often didn't have a bassist, yet his musicality and stage flair helped provide the backbone of this compelling show.

The light show/footage/animation leaned more toward contemporary psychedelia than nostalgia. Combined with a packed dance floor, little ventilation, 98.6-degree heating, very loud amplification, and the aroma of skunk and burning sagebrush, the Wayback Machine was in full gear.

Why wouldn't these guys keep playing this music and giving us the times of our lives?

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