The Doors – Live in Vancouver 1970

By the time The Doors played this show in June 1970, the band was on a brief rebound after their infamous chaotic Miami concert and subsequent cancelled gigs. Miami could also be seen as a symbolic heave-ho to their lighter, more pop-oriented material, which had come to dominate the uneven, uninspired Soft Parade album in 1969, where strings, horns and half-baked material threatened to snuff out whatever respect they’d earned as a serious band. But ’70’s Morrison Hotel, with its stripped-down, rugged blues influence, was a confident about-face and stands as one of the band’s essential recordings, along with its 1971 follow-up, L.A. Woman.

Bored with his superficial leather sex god image, Jim Morrison apparently intended to transform The Doors into more of a raw blues band. While he was successful to a certain degree, this concert demonstrates what could have been had his death not paved the way for Ian Astbury to embarrass himself even more than usual.

The concert begins in fairy lackluster fashion. “Roadhouse Blues,” from Morrison Hotel kicks things off, the band sounds alright but Morrison seems sluggish or just uninterested. They continue with more of the songs that typically populated their sets during this period – few of their hits but instead grittier tracks like “Five to One” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Back Door Man.” By the time they launch into the epic “When the Music’s Over” they’ve finally settled into a solid spellbinding groove. Robbie Krieger’s guitar pierces the Canadian air as though it’s a conduit for some newly discovered form of living energy and Jim’s waking up significantly, but it’s not until the halfway point in the concert, when they bring out bluesman Albert King (who had opened the show) to sit in on several songs, that the performance really enters another realm. All of a sudden, on their first number with King, “Little Red Rooster,” Morrison sounds energized, enthused, alive, growling and belting out the Willie Dixon blues with a fervor absent from everything preceding it. I mean, it’s truly palpable – he sounds like a new man. He sounds like his heart’s fully in it, and as for King, his playing is wild and electric, crying in a wordless language that any man who’s felt deep emotional pain understands completely.

Three more with King follow, all blues and early rock ‘n’ roll covers – “Money,” “Rock Me” and Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love,” all ragged but outstanding – and the momentum carries into the show’s final songs, extended versions of “Light My Fire” and “The End.” You get the feeling the band members were euphoric after this one, if not the entire audience, some of whom were no doubt disappointed beardy ol’ Jim didn’t sing “Touch Me” and whip out his schlong. You get the feeling The Doors could’ve gone on to be even better in the ’70s than they were in the ’60s, were Morrison to ever overcome his self-destructive demons. “Man, that was fun,” he remarks sincerely after King exits the stage. It almost comes across as though he’d forgotten how thrilling and satisfying it could be to play the music he loved.

The Doors
Live in Vancouver 1970
[DMC/Bright Midnight/Rhino]