Albert King opened for The Doors in Vancouver on June 6, 1970. The Doors asked him to jam with them on four blues standards, and they were only months away from starting the recording of “L.A. Woman” in the fall of that year. From the versions of the songs The Doors played “Live in Vancouver” it seems they already had the blues on their minds.
There was some experimenting going on in Vancouver. The Doors seemed to be pushing the limits of rock or at least stretching the limits between rock and the blues. At first it sounds like the Vancouver show is more sedate (not sedated) than the Felt Forum shows a few months prior. Upon a closer listening you can see The Doors were going for more of a bluesy feeling than a hard rock sound, and this explains why Morrison, in introducing Albert King, gives a quick tutorial to the audience about the two main indigenous forms of American music — blues and country — coming together in rock ‘n’ roll. He‘s tipping the audience off as to what they’re doing.
The instrumentals in most of the songs highlight the bluesy feeling, as in “Five to One” and “Light My Fire.” While they didn’t change the song substantially, during the instrumental of “Light My Fire” Morrison comes in using “St. James Infirmary” as a starting point and slips in some bucolic, blues-tinged imagery from “Porgy and Bess” to highlight the bluesier aspects of The Doors’ usual repertoire: “the fish were jumping, and the cotton is high.” What band today of the same caliber as The Doors would or could risk such onstage experimentation?
That’s not to say The Doors didn’t delve into their psychedelic roots, as they played “When The Music’s Over” and an interesting rendition of “The End.” Early in their career The Doors were interested in dissonance for their experimental journeys, but in Vancouver they show that assonance had taken over their experimental interest. “The End” in Vancouver is a mature rendering of that song; it isn’t as frantic as earlier versions, The Doors let it play out like a noir film, with Morrison stacking the familiar images upon each other until the dramatic crashing climax, creating a movie for the mind of the audience.
Albert King played four songs with the band onstage, “Little Red Rooster,” “Money,” “Rock Me,” and “Who Do You Love.” King’s solos on these songs, like the rest of the CD, don’t display a lot of unnecessary pyrotechnics but are solid playing all the way through.
I’ve been to a lot of rock concerts and listened to a lot of live albums, but none of those seem to have the context or coherence that The Doors were able to imbue into their best shows, and this is one of their best.
These Bright Midnight releases are great for fans like me who didn’t have the connections to get bootlegs but still longed to hear the shows they’ve long heard about. The Bright Midnight releases are like raiding The Doors’ archives without having to worry about the quality; the sound is crisp and clear. The liner notes give you some background, right from The Doors’ own pens that’s more reliable than second generation legend. “The Doors Live in Vancouver” will make a nice addition to your collection.
Originally published November 22, 2010. This review appears in “The Doors Examined.”