Freemont Street Experience, Las Vegas; NV
Saturday, July 23
We are driving along The Strip in Las Vegas late on Friday night (having seen a Paul Williams show) when we see a car doing the rounds, towing a trailer, advertising a free Robby Krieger Band show the next night. Robby Krieger – of The Doors is playing, for free, in Las Vegas. When I’m in town. So I head along…
Look, I love Krieger. I come and go with The Doors. I loved them a long time, then was sorta over ever hearing them again. A phase, I figured. Then whenever I hear their music I’m suddenly in the mood for it. Hypnotic, built on wonderful tensions, virtuoso players and Robby Krieger, I think, some sort of underdog, or underrated.
His solo career might be news to some but there are a half dozen albums, a few guest appearances, even a couple of post-Morrison albums recorded under the name The Doors. There’s some okay tracks, but they never stood a chance…ill-fated at best.
I love Krieger’s playing. So what can he, at age 70, do now?
Turns out he can rip. Still. Krieger hasn’t lost anything – and has added some tricks in fact.
Well it’s a Doors show. So no new tricks, song-wise, but it’s what he does and how he does it. It is most of the hits you’d expect to hear and a few deeper cuts too – Peace Frog with its scratchy wah wah guitar, Texas Radio and The Big Beat with its odd lurching rhythm and run married to spoken word are both nice surprises/highlights.
And there are nearly note-for-note covers that get the crowd hooked. Then there are some moments where the guitar really stretches out – a bit of two-hand tapping here, a new hook there. Krieger is constantly dazzling. He’s a guitar hero. But it’s not ever over the top. It’s always inspired, tasteful – correct. He’s just added to the bag over the year. New tricks. Plenty of new tricks.
The Robby Krieger Band features his son, Waylon, a journeyman actor/musician in the unenviable position of lead singer. But Waylon nails it. He takes the tone and timbre of Morrison and serves it up. He doesn’t try for any of the gimmick – none of the iconography or iconoclastic adulation. He is a meat-and-spuds singer. He sings the lyrics. Nails them. Buggers off – lets the band do its thing. Besides, Pops is on the lead guitar. Let him have his moment.
Waiting For The Sun is great, Maggie McGill is better, When The Music’s Over is the first truly epic song. But Love Me Two Times has that most searing solo. And when Krieger plays slide he really, really wails.
It’s a good band. They’re just rock-solid. The drummer has copped Densmore’s feel. The keyboardist has got Ray Manzarek’s sound down – though there’s a bass player too, which is cool as it adds groove, gives Krieger more room/makes more room for him and besides this isn’t a Doors Tribute Band. This is a Doors tribute by one of the members of the band. There is a difference.
Shit it’s a great set. So much better than anticipated. The crowd is hot for it too. And so the band obliges. Saving Light My Fire for the very last – it is worth it. First a great encore of Soul Kitchen.
So much of The Doors’ sound is in Robby Krieger. Well, at least that’s what we hear, by design, tonight. A lot of heavy lifting. A lot of very great playing.
The Light My Fire solo, which I always thought gave birth, in a sense, to Carlos Santana, goes to exactly that place tonight. And next thing Kreiger is quoting The Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby and Rogers & Hammerstein’s My Favourite Things is in there too before he seamlessly ties back into Light My Fire’s main groove.
Just a bunch of (mostly) old guys rocking out eh? Well, yeah why not. To many of us there it was so much more than that. It was a reminder of the vitality of the music and the musician. Krieger running rings around those songs with his fluid, expressive, energetic playing. Running rings around so many other young players I’m sure. Making many of those songs his own – which in some sense they were in the first place anyway.