The Doors’ drummer was no where to be seen, the audience had been waiting two hours for the gig to start. This night it was the Doors turn to perform first, Jefferson Airplane would play second and the reserve order for the second night. There was great excitement having both bands together on the one stage and Jim Morrison’s rock star status was well and truly in flight. Read the full review below or browse through an image gallery from the gig.
The Doors/Jefferson Airplane: The Roundhouse, London
Derek Grant, New Musical Express, September 1968
THE RUMOURS were flying. Doors drummer John Densmore was missing. The groups were arguing as to who would go on first. There was some speculation as to whether they would go on at all.
The Friday night Doors/Jefferson Airplane concert was scheduled to start at 9.30 pm. The audience, over 2,000 of them, had been sitting patiently since 7.30, and they had to wait a further two hours before the action began. Deejay Jeff Dexter kept things moving with records and Pete Drummond gave him a hand.
Then the stage darkened and the audience cheered as dim figures appeared and took up positions behind drums, organ and on guitar. The stage lights went up and as John Densmore, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Kreiger launched into ‘Back Door Man’ to herald the arrival of the front Doors man, Jim Morrison.
He walked majestically on stage clad in a tight black leather suit, white shirt and brown shoes. The crowd applauded him and Morrison, taking up a stance at the mike, smiled briefly and belted into his first song.
His singing is every bit as powerful as the Doors’ albums suggest, while the backing trio of organist Manzarek, drummer Densmore and Kreiger, guitar, are really together and play with precision and timing that are quite remarkable.
Wasting little time, Morrison went on to ‘Break On Through’, ‘When The Music’s Over’, the Brecht-Weill ‘Alabama Song’ ‘Hello I Love You’ and ‘Natural Child’ breaking into a knockout version of ‘Money’.
For the ritualistic ‘The End’, Morrison asked for the lights to be put out. Eventually after pleading, and finally shouting, lie got the lights off and the Doors became vague, shadowy figures with a backdrop of red dots formed by the lights on the group’s bank of amplifiers.
The song began and a dramatic effect was building up when a spotlight suddenly came on, killing the whole thing. Understandably, Morrison walked off but the group kept on playing. The light went out and Morrison returned to finish the song.
During ‘Light My Fire’ he leapt down into the fenced-off space between the stage and the audience, which was being used as a TV camera run. This caused confusion with the cameraman becoming tied up in Morrison’s mike wire. Morrison screamed into the mike and then held it into the audience for girls to scream into.
‘Unknown Soldier’ became a real production number, with Morrison acting out the part of the prisoner facing the firing squad. Densmore played a roll and then Morrison crashed to the floor, “dead”. He lay on the floor and it seemed as though he had knocked himself out but then he leapt up and finished the song with its triumphant “The war is over!” last line.
The Doors are undoubtedly one of the most professional groups on the scene anywhere. Everything hangs together well and there is an underlying feel of calculation and presentation which projects the music to its full.
Densmore, Manzarek and Kreiger are very good musicians and Morrison, with his great sense of showmanship and stage presence, provides a dynamic entity to the act. When he saw the Roundhouse for the first time he said, “This is going to be fun. This is the place for us”. After the show on Saturday, he commented, “This is the greatest audience. It was just like starting again.”
The six-strong Jefferson Airplane, second on on Friday, first on Saturday, lost some impact because the vocals were often inaudible against the strong backing.
Like the Doors, the programme for each of their four sets followed pretty much the same lines each time. The Airplane’s presentation is looser and more casual, but any lack in visual effect was more than made up by their amazing light show.
The Airplane were swamped in colour as slides and film clips created a restless, seething backdrop to their music. Two guitars, bass and drums built up layers of sounds against the hard vocal work of Grace Slick, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner.
Lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen plays thoughtful, well-constructed solos and doesn’t rely on speed for effect. Bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden underpin the whole thing very well. Dryden is a particularly fine drummer who drives things on well on the faster numbers.
It’s been said that it is impossible to get the Doors and Jefferson Airplane together on the same stage in the USA. Last weekend Middle Earth achieved the impossible.
© Derek Grant, 1968
Review provided courtesy of Rock’s Back Pages.