Live Music Review: Ray Manzarek & Robby Krieger with Royal Philharmonic Orchestra @ Wolverhampton Civic Hall

Sunday 18 July 2010

As the musicians of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra filled the stage, two spotlights beamed a top the lone organ and empty mic that would soon be occupied by two of the most influential rockers to come out of the flower power era of 60s Los Angeles – Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger.

Photography by Woody Tripp

The audience gave a mature applause as Michael Matijevic sauntered on stage with black shirt opened revealing pecs that even I was jealous of and leather trousers.  Well of course, he’s filling the shoes of the great Jim Morrison.  The women in the balcony sitting next to me cooed at the unmistakable intro of Love Me Two Times.

The Royal Philharmonic seemed a bit drowned out from where I was sitting.  I moved about but the sound didn’t really get balanced out until after the intermission.  Despite this initial observation, I was blown away by Matijevic’s “impersonation” of Morrison’s token singing style…it was almost eerie.

A jungle rhythm broke out to Break On Through and the few people that had congregated near the stage were dispersed by a portly security guard.  By the time Love Her Madly hit the set list, I could see that the audience in their seats were just a throng of contained energy – feet tapping, spasmatic body movements, chair-bound dancing, on the verge of being whipped into a frenzy.

The orchestra came into its own for the fourth song, Waiting for the Sun, with powerful strings and intense timpani fills against Matijevic’s gloomy vocals and metallic keyboard skills of Manzarek.

Moonlight Drive, Wild Child, The Changeling and Not to Touch the Earth filled the remaining first half set.  Finally, Manzarek appealed to the audience that despite the intellectualism that comes with performing with an orchestra – this was a rock concert and he wanted people to rock out.  That poor, lonely security guard didn’t have a chance as the almost zombie-like crowd wasted no time in filtering towards the stage.

At the intermission, I caught up with my cohort and Midlands Rocks photographer, Rob Stanley, and we both concurred that Matijivec’s vocals were impressive.  We both, at the start of the night, were dubious at his ability to tackle the Doors tune given his history of hair metal, power ballads.  But we both were pleasantly surprised.  We spoke too soon.

Intermission over and Manzarek and Krieger reappeared on stage with Krieger enchanting the audience with, in my opinion, a sloppy flamenco guitar instrumental. This obviously led into Spanish Caravan and then a gentle transition into Crystal Ship.

Two more classic Doors tunes followed in the form of People Are Strange and one of my personal favourites, Five to One.  And it was during that song that I made the note that Matijevic’s vocals seemed a bit too coarse and gravelly for the song – if that’s possible. He wasn’t to appear on stage again.  Krieger made some apologies and a quick reference to when Morrison lost his voice in Amsterdam and once again Manzarek would step up and sing the songs – starting with a jam introducing each member of the band as the “sex machine”.  Actually, he did a stand-up job of giving the audience a quality rendition of Riders on the Storm, Roadhouse Blues and the encore Light My Fire.

Words by Juanita Appleby, Beatlebabe.com