“Great to be here in Nashville,” said classic rock hero Robby Krieger of The Doors during his band’s performance at the City Winery in Music City on June 6, 2016. “You know, it wasn’t long ago that Nashville didn’t really have rock ‘n’ roll. A lot has changed.”
The Doors were mainly an East and West Coast phenomenon during the height of their touring days and they didn’t really penetrate too deeply into the heartland. While researching this article we discovered that Krieger had not previously broken through to the Nashville live music market. His former band never made it here. That group did get as close as Memphis in 1972 but by that time their charismatic lead singer Jim Morrison had already long left this plane of existence. Robby has appeared onstage during the Bonnaroo Superjam in Manchester. Still, he seemed surprised at the large turnout for his show on Lafayette Ave.
“I think we’re gonna have a good time tonight, I can’t believe so many people came out on a Monday,” Krieger said as he took the stage in Nashville. “Is this a holiday?”
Though is wasn’t a holiday it was a celebration of the music and lyrics of one of the most mythical and mysterious rock acts to have emerged in the 60’s. The quartet comprised of Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore ultimately made their recording debut during the so-called “Summer of Love”. The instant classic self-titled album cemented their status as rock revolutionaries whose creation story was also a thing of legend.
It’s interesting how a causal relationship can be life changing. In 1965 Ray Manzarek met Jim Morrison on a beach in Venice, California and that would eventually lead to the keyboarist inviting Robby Krieger to join The Doors. It was a moment in time that would define Robby’s legacy. Guitarist/songwriter Robby Krieger has played in a number of groups over the years but he is best known for his work in The Doors. From 1967 through 1971 The Doors would release eight chart topping albums that progressed from psychedelic to jazzy and ended up with the blues. They also evolved into an in-demand live act.
The band got its name from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which was a reference to a quote made by William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” Lead singer Jim Morrison was a poet but erratic performer which was part of the allure. Jim frequently strayed from songs spontaneously adding prose thus forcing the other three Doors to craft musical accompaniment in the moment. Ray, Robby and drummer John Densmore delivered thus establishing their legend. Morrison died in 1971 at age 27 but The Doors’ mystical music survived staying popular decades later.
Robby who grew up liking music and is a self-taught guitarist remained active after The Doors which brings us to 2016 with Krieger on an East Coast tour that included a stop at the City Winery in Nashville. He is currently performing Doors songs with his Robby Krieger Band featuring special guest vocalist Waylon Krieger. As is the custom at the City Winery, fans were reminded that the venue prides itself on being a listening room thus requesting that folks keep talk to a minimum so that everyone could enjoy the music.
The opener “Break On Through” featured a powerful poetic introduction. “Back Door Man” was a smash with dramatic drumming before rolling quickly into an urgent version of the revolutionary “Five to One”. A strong vintage keyboard sound replicated the pageantry of Manazarek especially on “When the Music’s Over” that also displayed a killer Krieger tone from the guitarist who was on fire all night long.
We had seen a Robby solo show twenty-five years earlier with a much younger Waylon Krieger fronting that outfit. In that time he has grown into a fine frontman capable of delivering the difficult catalogue of The Doors while reenacting some of Jim’s mannerisms. Where he displayed caution a quarter century ago he emerged assured and confident on the City Winery stage reveling in the opportunity to perform with his father’s quality band. The unsure kid we once witnessed had transformed into a performer who would surely make the “Lizard King” proud today.
“We’re close to Texas,” Robby said before introducing The WASP. He also explained the process the band went through to compose the bloody “Peace Frog” saying they had music but no lyrics. They went through Jim’s notebooks and found a poem called “Abortion Stories” that was reborn as a new song.
For “Touch Me” accomplished saxophone play Phil Kenzie was introduced and he proceeded to add a satisfying take on that song’s signature solo section. Robby’s band also featured a celebrity bass player in the form of Phil Chen. He has played with Rod Stewart and recorded “Freeway Jam” with Jeff Beck. This being the case the band whipped up a solid version of that during the encore along with a smoldering rendition of “Light My Fire” thus sending the attendees happily back on the road after a magical and musical Monday night.
The City Winery located at 609 Lafayette Street in Nashville is an up-scale venue with an innovative menu and wine list. They continue to host an eclectic blend of artists such as The Robby Krieger Band. Up-coming events at the City Winery include Wasabassco Burlesque, Jessie James, Steve Wariner, Atlantic Rhythm Section and Rahsaan Barber.
SETLIST: Break On Through (to the Other Side) | Back Door Man | Five to One | Moonlight Drive | Wild Child | When the Music’s Over | The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) | Peace Frog | Touch Me | Waiting for the Sun | Riders on the Storm | Twentieth Century Fox | Maggie M’Gill | L.A. Woman | Encore | Freeway Jam (Jeff Beck cover) | Light My Fire