Monday, February 5, 2018

Review: 'The Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970'


The Doors’ third-to-last concert was the biggest of their career. In fact, it was the biggest of anyone’s career since the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival even broke Woodstock’s attendance records. Yet it was a gig that occurred at a tough time for the band, and not just because they went on stage at 2 A.M. Jim Morrison was mentally beleaguered by the possibility he may have to face a prison stint for his infamous “indecent exposure” charge and physically softened by alcohol. He appears bearded, a bit bloated, and sedentary at the concert. His vocals remain animalistic, though only when he feels moved to deliver. Listening to the studio version of “When the Music’s Over” was never the most interesting way to spend eleven minutes, but Morrison transforms the pretentious epic into a spellbinding stage performance with his controlled body and uncontrolled voice. “Light My Fire”, a far superior song, ends up sluggish due to Morrison’s lack of commitment to the hit and a long-winded and surprisingly sloppy performance from the band. A seemingly endless version of “The End” is somewhere in between, going on way too long but also supplying more frenetic energy and sheer wackiness than the studio version—and without the song’s Oedipal psychodrama centerpiece no less!

So the new concert film The Doors: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 is a mixed bag, but it is still fascinating for its historical value and a brisk new edit of the footage brings all the energy to this performance that Morrison withheld. The dim, red-bulb lighting must have seemed totally inadequate to the massive crowd back in 1970, but it makes the film eerie and atmospheric. For the faithful, this DVD is an unquestionably valuable artifact.
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