When the Music’s Over 

Thursday, Feb 13 2003
Photo by Gregory Bojorquez

"THE 21st CENTURY DOORS" at the Universal Amphitheater, February 7

Doors keyboard shepherd Ray Manzarek assured us that it was all about the music, but no. It was also about saving the planet; about real live feathered-up dancing Indians; about video projections of war dead and Nixon and trip-o-delic oil squoogles. The effect was like a preview of the next Disney theme attraction — Hippieland, a place you like to revisit but don't want to live. Singer Ian Astbury: "Are we goin' to war??!!" Audience, squirming: "Uh . . . no?" Moreover, it was about frequent thanks to some guy named Jim Morrison. (The promoter?) And it was about ignoring the anti-tour lawsuit by John Densmore, the Door Who Wasn't There.

The music was pretty good anyway. Manzarek tinkled prettily on "Riders on the Storm" and wonked wretchedly on "When the Music's Over," his hideous "scream of the butterfly" effects scraping lowest asphalt. Touring bassist Angelo Barbera was the solidest thing onstage. Drummer Ty Dennis, substituting for the broken-armed Stewart Copeland substituting for Densmore, contributed to a stiff, undynamic overall feel — not his fault, since the Doors' weird brand of Spanish blues requires marination. Astbury, disguised in leather, wig and shades, tried out a whole range of visual impressions, from his Steve McGarrett Undercover (A+) to his Val Kilmer (C-), while baying serviceably though not sensitively. Bandleader imitations were offered by Astbury ("The music lives!"), Mr. Interlocutor Manzarek ("Turn off the fuckin' head, feel the music!") and even MC Jim Ladd ("The ceremony is about to begin!"), but something or other seemed missing . . .

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It wasn't Robbie Krieger, who was on fire. Much improved from olden days, he's perfected a rocking, blasting guitar tone that he pushed to the brink of spin-out, injecting spirit into the night's best moments: a heavy "Wild Child," a blue-mean "Maggie McGill," a jazz/rock/reggae "Light My Fire" interpolating the Wailers' "Get Up, Stand Up," and a cruisin' "L.A. Woman," the one song every guy in the band obviously loved (but did we really need that horrible video with John Doe in it?). Note to Krieger's loved ones re his tiger-print shirt and camouflage cargo pants: Please don't let him go out like that.

The audience — from old fans like this reviewer to curious plutocrats squiring the kind of fake racks you'd ogle at a Crue concert — wanted badly to lose itself and mostly succeeded, pouring over the security and onto the boards to dance along with the closing "Soul Kitchen." Learn to forget.

METRIC at the Silverlake Lounge, February 5

"Welcome to the Metric anti-vanity show," announced the group's lead singer Emily Haines. "We're Metric, and the smoke machine is off. I brought something to read if anyone wants to, a little bit from Einstein." The group launched into a set filled with wordy, new wave-style rock songs. Haines' voice had a post-coital allure, though her lyrics had more to do with the complications that enter relationships after the sex has stopped. The songs were propulsive, effective and unadorned. James Shaw's guitar work was free of tricks. The rhythm section's parts were inherited, not invented. All the players were assured enough that they served their purpose: acting as an effective punch line for Haines' swiveling hips.

From the start, it was clear she was the star of this show, a high-powered ingénue intent on landing a new record deal, and making audience members swoon. (The group's debut was supposed to come out in September 2001 on Restless, but has been delayed indefinitely as the company restructures.) She was google-eyed and wiry, her dancing so intense one feared her hips might pop out of joint. At times, though, Haines seemed overly self-conscious. "Now that your wallet is all lit up," she sang, "I can't feel anything, my dreams are too tight." She then reached into her pockets and strewed dollar bills onto the stage. The gesture felt confident yet uncomfortable, too hammy by far for the Silverlake Lounge's tiny stage. "So I start throwing out money," she said afterward, "and then I realized, wait, I can't afford this."

Haines' voice is a fabulous instrument — one moment smoky and redolent like Portishead's Beth Gibbons, the next girly and vacant like No Doubt's Gwen Stefani. "Dead disco! Dead funk! Dead rock & roll!" she screamed as the band's final rave-up climaxed. She grabbed one of the two synths to her left, tore it from its rack, and the machine crashed down at her feet. Both synths had failed to work during most of the group's performance. She was obviously upset. But fixing that will certainly cost more than a couple of bucks. (Alec Hanley Bemis)

PRINCESS SUPERSTAR at the Echo, February 7

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