THE DOORS REIMAGINED
PERTH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH JUSTIN BURFORD
HIS MAJESTY’S THEATRE, 2 AUGUST
In the before-the-show video about Perth Symphony Orchestra, founder and CEO, Bourby Webster said that they are an orchestra that will “play any music, anywhere.” They have no boundaries, so it was fitting that on this night they took on the music of The Doors, perhaps one of the most boundary smashing bands of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s and still relevant today.
Waiting in the ornate foyer of His Majesty’s, packed with punters and abuzz with anticipation, we were reminded that in the days before The Doors made the leap to stadiums, venues like this were staples for such rock and roll upstarts. So, it was fitting that we were in such a venue to experience Perth Symphony’s reimagining of The Doors’ music.
Everything was fitting together nicely.
On our way into the auditorium, we were handed a pair of laser specs, designed to enhance our experience of the night. It was a bit of a cheap gimmick, but a nice way of reminding us to let our hair down, those of us who still had any. It wasn’t the only reference to mind-altering substances during the course of the evening, a nod to Jim Morrison’s appetite for exploring the boundaries of perception as well as a reminder of times that, with hindsight, feel like they were more innocent, freer, somehow.
But that can’t be right. The 1960s were a decade of great social turmoil. We had the Viet Nam war, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war, race riots and killings, campaigns for social justice on so many fronts, the beginnings of the environmental movement. So much turmoil, so much injustice, so much death and destruction. And we also had technological advances: the moon landing, supersonic flight, lasers, the first video game console… Come to think of it, while everything has changed, not much has changed at all.
It was comforting, somehow, to be able to see our current times the way history may perceive them, with a bit of a halo effect rather than as destructive end-of-days, as many people would have it.
The biggest and most generous applause on the night was for Perth Symphony Orchestra and their conductor, Jessica Gethin….They breathed symphonic life into familiar arrangements, taking risks, opening musical doors of perception that may never have entered the minds of Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore.
That was one of the impacts of The Doors Reimagined, it made the audience feel a bit better about now while sharing memories of what used to be, at least for the two hours of the show. That’s got to be a good thing.
The show itself was a riot of sound. It was kind of like Phil Spector got hold of The Doors’ music back at the peak of his creativity, before guns and crazy wigs were his calling cards, and squeezed every drop of creative goodness out of it. And it was like the lead role, the Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison, had been cast by Baz Luhrmann after a world-wide search to find the perfect imposter. That’s the sort of hyper-real, technicolour goodness that Perth Symphony Orchestra’s creatives have injected into this show.
Justin Burford inhabits Morrison’s reptilian epidermis so convincingly that, close your eyes for a moment, and you could believe that Jim was still alive. He has the voice, the moves and the patter down pat. The only thing that could have made it more authentic was if he’d sparked up a doobie right there on stage or dropped his pants to show the audience his hairy arse. That’s how good Burford was.
But he was by no means the star of the show. The biggest and most generous applause on the night was for Perth Symphony Orchestra and their conductor, Jessica Gethin. These were our stars tonight. As the title suggested, they took us on a journey of The Doors’ music reimagined. They breathed symphonic life into familiar arrangements, taking risks, opening musical doors of perception that may never have entered the minds of Morrison, Manzarek, Krieger and Densmore.
Perth Symphony Orchestra added dimensions to The Doors’ music that gave it currency and relevance beyond the still-high rotation of ‘Riders On The Storm’ on FM radio. That’s the easy bit, playing The Doors’ greatest hits to audiences we keep being told don’t want to be challenged.
Perth Symphony Orchestra gave lie to that hoary old chestnut, ripping The Doors’ music a new one and, in doing so, delighting a packed house that consisted of everyone from Doors fans and aficionados to the young and curious and everyone in between.
If they’d played it straight down the line, there wouldn’t really have been any point. By painting themselves into a neo-psychedelic corner and being willing to take the risk of the trip going bad, Perth Symphony Orchestra breathed new life into The Doors’ music and picked up a fair few new fans of their own along the way.