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Concert Reviews:
Three shots of classic rock -- the Doors, Genesis and Dick Wagner

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Saturday, November 12, 2011

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DETROIT -- The Doors reveled in strangeness during the late 60s and early 70s, so it shouldn't be surprising that a strange phenomenon has occurred during the nine years founding members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger have reunited to play the group's music.

The quality of the show has increased in inverse proportion to the notoriety of the singer.

The duo started with the Cult's Ian Astbury taking over for the iconic Jim Morrison, and doing a fine job. But his successor, Fuel's Brett Scallions, was even better. And with Dave Brock -- who fronted the quintet on Friday, Nov. 11, at the Fillmore Detroit, Manzarek and Krieger have found their best configuration yet.

Brock hails from the Los Angeles Doors tribute band Wild Child, and while his addition has some slamming Manzarek and Krieger as being merely their own tribute band -- well, the fact of the matter is they have been ever since 2002, regardless of who's singing. But because he's studied Morrison and his brooding mannerisms mannerisms -- not to mention his vocal timber and inflections -- so closely, Brock on Friday was the key in providing a more authentic Doors experience for those at the Fillmore. The two-hour-plus show may not have broken new ground -- or, if you prefer, broken on through to the other side -- but it looked, sounded and felt if not like the real thing then a genuinely incredible simulation.

The other key, of course, was the presence of keyboardist Manzarek and guitarist Krieger, the real stamp of credibility for the endeavor. Their soloing -- particularly on an epic, 16-minute rendition of "When the Music's Over" -- was as virtuoistic as ever, and their hippie-esque commentary (although Krieger scored points for bashing Chicago, Manzarek's home town, in Detroit) gave the night a bit of trippy, Grande Ballroom flavor.

The hits were all there -- "Roadhouse Blues," "Break on Through," "Love Me Two Times," "Touch Me," "Riders on the Storm," "L.A. Woman," "Light My Fire" -- while Manzarek's brother Rick, from the Ravens, joined the group for "Backdoor Man." But the Manzarek-Krieger collective also dipped deep into the catalog for crowd-pleasing favorites such as "Alabama Song," "Peace Frog," a version of "The Changeling" that incorporated Aretha Franklin's "Chain of Fools" and Preston Foster's "Got My Mojo Working," "Indian Summer" and a show-closing "Soul Kitchen."

The Doors, of course, can never be recreated, but with Brock on board Manzarek and Krieger have at least brought their act as close as possible.

The Doors duo wasn't the only group in town recently to trip cheerfully down memory lane. At the Magic Bag in Ferndale on Friday, former Bossmen/Frost/Ursa Major leader Dick Wagner resurfaced after five years of near-fatal health issues -- including a heart attack, a stroke and brain surgery -- looking and sounding strong and offering a generous journey through his own well-credentialed past.

Bolstered by a solid seven-piece band that included his son, Robert, and bassist Prakash John, who worked with Wagner in bands for Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, the 67-year-old guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer led lengthy jams through the likes of the Frost's "Sweet Jenny Lee," the rendition of "Sweet Jane" he helped arrange for Reed's seminal "Rock and Roll Animal" album, and the Cooper co-writes "I Never Cry," "Only Women Bleed" and "Welcome to My Nightmare." The ensemble was particularly expansive on a couple of Ursa Major selections -- "Back to the Land" and "In My Darkest Hour" (the latter featuring onetime Ursa Major bassist Greg West), while Wagner dedicated an epic performance of "Jerusalem" to active military personnel and veterans.

Meanwhile, Genesis -- and specifically its 1974 rock opera "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" -- was celebrated on Thursday night, Nov. 10, by the Montreal-based tribute band the Musical Box at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. And the quintet has plenty of ammo behind its simulation; Genesis itself has licensed the troupe and even provided costumes and other visuals, including an extensive slide show for the recreation.

They did it well, for the most part. Despite a dodgy sound mix, Denis Gagne was convincing in delivering Peter Gabriel's vocals and theatrics, working from several stage positions and romping around in the famous Slipperman costume. The instrumentalists have the intricate arrangements down cold, too, not only on "The Lamb..." material but also the "bonus tracks," "The Musical Box" and "Watchers of the Skies." It was a welcome revisit to a show that will not be recreated by its original makers any time soon, and enough to make us hope for a return show that will touch on other phases of Genesis' career.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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