We are told imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Which raises the question, is this imitation or interpretation? “The original is the greatest” was a song line of my youth. I know I have been lucky enough to grow up with chances to see many original acts, though I am still not sure if the Temptations I saw in 1968 were the real thing, in spite of being promoted as authentic!

As a result, I have tended to ignore tribute bands, but when the opportunity presented itself to review Doors Alive, I went for it and so should you.

My own relationship with the Doors began with a teenage love of Jim Morrison. My diary from 1968 is full of cut out pictures of him, imitation Doors-style lettering and my hand written copy of verses from 'Horse Latitudes'. There were missed opportunities too. In 1968 I came back to England from visiting my parents in the Far East. I transferred to a flight to Manchester, but my friend went through Heathrow and met the Doors, arriving for their concert at the Roundhouse. I didn’t make it to the Isle of Wight in 1970 but most of my friends did. And then the music was over. I neglected Jim Morrison’s grave on a recent trip to Paris, adding it to the wish list for next time. As well as the diary, I still have the vinyl, even a single or two. I can clearly recall the shock of hearing 'Light My Fire' on 'Juke Box Jury'. Life changing.

So my expectations were high, though no longer drug related.

The Doors Alive show ‘ Perception’ references the culture and the image as well as the music, playing with the origin of the Doors name, Aldous Huxley’s book 'The Doors of Perception (Heaven and Hell)'. There was a point when I suspended my disbelief and stopped analysing how the singer had created the Morrison image and just accepted that I had broken on through to the other side and was deep in memories, associations and pure enjoyment of some of the best music ever created.

Homage was paid to the politics and mood of the sixties, through light shows, film clips of Vietnam and anti Vietnam protests, and psychedelic images. Costume, hairstyle , poses and moves all recreated Jim Morrison.

Willie Scott has a voice as powerful and poetic as Jim. Seeing such a strong performance made me wonder what level of obsession or study does it take to get to this point. Is it like channelling? Is there a time in the performance when identities start to blur? Is it acting a role or experiencing a life?

I believe that Jim Morrison invented the rock god image and that’s a hard act to follow. He was passionate, brooding, destructive, dangerous and sexually charged.

The audience were completely carried along. It was a great set, starting the trip through the Doors catalogue with 'Break on Through'. There were no disappointments in the songs chosen. Touch Me got everyone up and dancing. From dirty blues to sixties pop, the distinctive sound of the vocals and keyboards kept on delivering.

It was a lively and raucous audience, in the intimate space of the Quay Theatre at the Lowry. Many people there knew one another. The guys were rushing the stage, just like New York, and the women wished they were from LA. They were there for the big beat rather than the poetry, "the scream of the butterfly", the chaos of the experimental.

At one point, whilst the band played on, performing 'Hello I Love You', a man had to be removed from the theatre, comatose and creating a panic among the security staff and those sitting near him. I hope he recovered, but for a short time, it looked like this was a serious incident. "No one gets out of here alive." This level of drama, which would have been created by Jim Morrison’s presence and complete unpredictability on stage, seemed to be coming from the audience. And that’s when it hit me, that a tribute band can’t truly recreate that without embracing the self destruction of an artist and poet like Jim Morrison, fuelled by drugs, sex, alcohol and with the soul of a poet and performer. No-one wants to go there in cold blood though there was a sense of a shift of mood with 'The Changeling' and the music that followed. " See me change".

I find the concept of tribute bands intriguing. Great music needs to be performed, whether by cover bands or by reworking in a different musical genre. You shouldn’t keep a good song down, and it’s never been an issue in the world of classical music. When it comes to popular and contemporary music it seems to get more complicated, with Abba franchises, Beatles bands, Motown tribute shows and Australian Pink Floyds. When the musicians are still alive and occasionally working it fills the gap for those fans who would never manage to see them any other way. When the musician is no longer with us, it moves into a different arena. Elvis springs to mind, but Queen, Thin Lizzy and Jimi Hendrix are still touring too through tribute acts, often choosing their name through a song reference. There have been substitutes, like Mick Taylor for Brian Jones, and Paul Rogers for Freddie Mercury. Other times it’s the children who carry the flame, Marley, Zappa, Fela Kuti. Occasionally bands reform around one or two original members.

The Doors Alive own website defines tribute as a gift or statement made in acknowledgement, gratitude or admiration.

A great tribute band, and this is a great band by any standards, needs discipline and reliability, even though they have chosen to share the image and music of a man who described himself as a fiery comet, a shooting star, who wrote "death makes angels of us all", but who played the devil’s music.
I spoke to the fans next to me. They had approached the Doors through the Stranglers' music.

There were children too in the audience, discovering the power of this music. "The old get old and the young get stronger."

Jim Morrison didn’t get old, but his spirit lives on. Thank you Doors Alive for taking me back there and for introducing a new audience to this amazing music.

Manchester’s Rainband supported, preparing for their tour with Paolo Nutini. Catch them if you can.

Strange days. I had to run for the last train, the same train, the same station, the same route that my teenage self used to dash to catch after a night at the Magic Village, discovering this music for the first time. When I got home there was a link to an architecture website on my Facebook page, describing what lies beneath the Arndale Centre in Manchester, including the Magic Village. Weird scenes inside the goldmine.

Photos: Melanie Smith

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Commenting On: The Lowry, Salford, 12/7/2014 - Doors Alive

ie London, England

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21868 Posted By: Leila (Manchester )

Thiis is a great review. I'm a child of the 60s and a Doors fan and loved it. The channelling comment is dead right.
Sadly I was horrified to witness a man jump up and punch his neighbour several times in the face and then run out of the theatre before anyone realized what had happened.

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