Through The Doors represent yet another tribute to the Jim Morrison-lead band from the late 1960s to early 1970s. These guys, though, have something special. Lead singer Ernie Potter looks a lot like the late Mr. Morrison and he carries himself with much the same somber poise.
Performing at Chan’s Chinese Restaurant in Woonsocket, Rhode Island last November 28th, Through The Doors began their first set without much energy. “Break On Through,” “Love Her Madly,” and “Take It As It Comes,” were rendered accurately but without any spark. The five-piece, with Tommy Toze on bass filling in for Ray Manzarek’s keyboard bass, hit their stride with “20th Century Fox.” Guitarist Lou Tourtellot played the beautiful, brittle melodies with taste and precision while keyboardist Dan Sullivan played the piano and organ notes in an understated manner. You could almost miss the keyboard notes in the first set, unless you focused on them, probably because bands rely on the house sound system.
Potter sounded eerily similar to Morrison on “People Are Strange” and that began the shows ascent into a tribute that actually channeled The Doors essence instead of merely getting the songs correct. The thumping, marching beat of “Five To One” made every Doors fan in the 140 seat music room feel transported back in time, and the ride out guitar solo fleshed out the kitschy cool of Robbie Krieger’s penchant for hitting every nuance. The ride out solo turned into a one-man show as Tourtellot played the guitar riffs from several classic rock songs from the 1970s and even a melody line from “If I Only Had A Brain” from the Wizard Of Oz. He had to fill out time because a newer member didn’t know “Spanish Caravan.” The whole band came back right on time, finishing the hoofing beat of “Five To One,” then calling local harmonica player Bill Smith on stage for a rocking attempt at “Roadhouse Blues.”
The first set turned out to be a warm up for the powerhouse second. Through The Doors re-started beautifully, with an incredibly good stomp through “When The Music’s Over,” the band using quality dynamics to deliver this perfect marriage between rock and poetry. The dynamics could have become cheesy and manipulative in the hands of lesser bands
Another highlight was the quiet storm “Crystal Ship” from The Doors 1967 debut album. Potter’s smooth low tenor/high baritone gliding over the gentle melodies from the keyboards, which were sounding a lot more punchy in the second set. Potter’s smooth glide also worked on “Moonlight Drive,” a song that usually gets noticed most for its sweet guitar melodies, which Tourtellot picked out tastefully, and the guitar set the stage for Potter to recite the “Horse Latitudes” poem from the “Strange Days” album.
A hint at The Doors popularity with female fans could be seen at this Chan’s performance. Several women got up to dance in the aislesbetween tables to boogie to The Door’s version of Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man.” Female enthusiasm to a tribute show is only a mild indication to Jim Morrison’s insight into the Dixon lyric “the men don’t know what the little girls understand.” If it was actually The Doors performing I suspect all of those women would have been running around the room naked.
“Peace Frog,” a favorite of many Doors fans, got the full-fledged rambunctious guitar riffs from Tourtellot and Potter gave it the full on Morrison anthem delivery and he handled the poetry in the middle with Morrison’s mysterious poignant yearning. We never really did know what was bothering the real Lizard King, but he never let us forget that something was eating away at his soul. Somehow, with insight and theatrics, Potter presented himself in a way that projected Morrison as a deeply troubled, deeply haunted man. And all Potter had to do to put all of that across was stand up straight and still with his head hung low enough to look like he was casually observing a tragedy unfolding around him. The album-like transition to “Blue Sunday” was natural and smooth as it gave Potter more time to subtly project the haunted soul behind Morrison’s sometimes scary voice.
The moment when the first drum note introduces “Light My Fire” is the most memorable for any Doors fan. From there, the song only got better, and this tribute band successfully developed the momentum of this long Doors masterpiece. The instrumental portion sounded fantastic and funky, the band letting the energy percolate over the top. “L.A. Woman” was notable for the rhythm section’s hip delivery, probably because The Doors recorded it with an actual bass player and that gave Toze something meatier to sink his teeth into. Often times, this bass player, who stands barely five feet tall, seemed uncertain what to do with himself. Of course, it is a challenge to transpose the bass notes from Manzarek’s bass keyboard to the bass guitar.
Through The Doors brought the show to s close with a focus on The Doors interest in old blues music. “Cars Hiss By My Window,” “Been Down So Long,” and the encore song, Bo Diddley-done-Doors style “Who Do You Love” brought the audience closer to what kept The Doors grounded, their fixation with early, earthy, rootsie Americana music.
This show was sure to please many Doors fans, even if Through The Doors, in more than a few moments, indicated they need to put more time and effort into developing and refining their presentation. Through The Doors could become a hugely popular Doors tribute act.