Sometimes artists have “mantra songs,” so to speak, songs that for them are like a warmup, songs that cause them no anxiety to perform, and get them into the physical act of doing music, loosen them up. I’ve seen this with my own two eyes with Califone and “Michigan Girls” — Tim Rutilli plucking away frantically and viscerally as if on a Berrien County back porch, when “Fisherman’s Wife,” in spite of itself, wouldn’t do, didn’t carry the epochal fortitude the studio version did.
Apropos of this, I’d classify the moment at which “Roadhouse Blues” ENDS as my favorite part of any Doors show. And yes, that does make it very much like The Velvet Underground’s “Who Loves the Sun?”
Then much to my chagrin, the “blues” aspects of “Ship of Fools,” namely the middle segment of caustic keyboard minor-thirds, seem accentuated here, immediately following “Roadhouse.” I’d always thought the part in The Doors (film) was erroneous that called Morrison Hotel (contemporary with Live in Boston) blues-heavy, or whatever, but the co**-flailing way The Doors open this show belies the fact that they actually have some SONGS buried under their overalls and spittoons.
This being said, no complaints even to the remotest degree with the production hence far on Boston, courtesy of Bruce Botnick, which of course though only makes it even more frustrating that they’re opening the show with a doctoral lesson in the music of Beloxi, Mississippi.
Hmm, “Alabama Song.” That’s better, a little bit. Actually, it’s a lot better. John Densmore institutes a gritty modification on the intro, staggering his entrance to make it suspenseful.
Next song: a blues cover, their previously covered version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Back Door Man. What happened to the fragility of “End of the Night” (showcased so prominently on another live collection, Bright Midnight), of “The Crystal Ship”? The Doors clearly want to be a sort of blues house band, maybe sick of their catchy singles so often shouted for. Actually, their album following this performance, L.A. Woman, is bluesier even than Morrison Hotel (I don’t know that Hotel at any point offers consecutive tracks in the 12-bar) — “Been Down So Long” and “Cars Hiss by My Window” grafting side a with an unmistakable tinge.
Densmore is showcased a little bit more on the extended part of “Five to One,” which is a Morrison monologue about telling his woman to go wait at home while gets… “FU**ED UP!”… but Robby Krieger steals the show here, throwing out guitar riffs like solar flares, the whole band sounding like a tight unit.
Oh yeah, and during the quiet part of “When the Music’s over,” Jim Morrison starts talking with some chick in the audience, and she’s like, “Ball me!”, and then she’s like, “I wanna have sex with you!” Just one more decoration on a great song, really… one thing that stands out is the ambivalence Morrison shows, as if this is a commonplace event, in orchestrating the crowd subsequently to get real quiet before the “We want the world and we want it… NOW” part. He just casts the girl off as if she’s… well, a groupie.
I’d made a pact with myself not to look at the set list of this show, because I wanted it to be like I was just listening as if at the concert, but I caved, and was first displeased, not to mention having my earlier point affirmed, by the fact that still to come on this honky-tonking night are a B.B. King cover, a Robert Johnson cover (what, no Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters?), and a Junior Parker cover. I was one step away from hitting “stop,” but damn, for how much I hate B.B. King, he is one cover-able blues churner-outer… this “Rock Me” is arguably the highlight of the show so far, and you can see how this influenced the band’s later work like “Cars Hiss by My Window.”
Getting to my earlier point about “Roadhouse Blues,” although it is in the blues scale, and although its phrasing is based on 12-bar intervals, its chord progression is, well, non-existent, baring its etude-like simplicity even more, and perhaps laying the ground work for what are really, truly the first “blues” songs the Doors ever wrote — “Been Down So Long” and “Cars Hiss by My Window.” It’s like writing those timeless melodies of “Light My Fire” and “The Crystal Ship” was the amateur stuff, only stepping stones to the band’s purportedly ambitious mission statement of eventually just ripping off the delta formula for new wax. But let’s remember, “Light My Fire” is actually Robby Krieger’s song — Morrison was the beat poet of the group, primarily just the vocalist. So this new blues direction, with which the listener is all but bashed in the head on this recording, could be seen as Morrison creative muse addition, that influence finally being exacted on the band’s catalogue.
“Mystery Train,” the Junior Parker cover, in 12-bar, ends up being a thrilling ride in rag time. To be honest, I’m not actually sure how they’re managing to play a keyboard, a bass (accentuated piercingly and beautifully here by Bruce Botnick’s production), a guitar and drums, since Morrison is credited only with “vocals.” It must be a looped bass sound (looping was invented maybe by Frank Zappa in 1966), but the sound is incredibly live, and all the parts seem to fall over themselves in rock and roll mayhem. This is a “jam” in the true sense — not all of the band playing the same parts over a guitar solo, as in “Light My Fire,” but a very original take on an old blues standard, which plays like a wild animal stalking the deep South. This wild, unexplainable, romping blues, in distinct discord with the band’s material up to this point, but obviously the work of men whose instruments might as well be attached to their bodies, who want to create a show experience that isn’t just indicative of robots going through the motions… the fact that it’s happening 1,000 miles north of where this stuff would be geographically authentic ensuring that, at least, Curtis Loew won’t get jealous and storm the stage.