Blu-ray Review - The Doors: Live At The Bowl '68

Legendary concert film available in its entirety for the first time
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The Doors’ live performances have become something of legend over the years. Few bands blended poetry, theater, blues, psychedelia and unpredictability quite like the Doors and their live shows took their songs to places not possible on the studio recordings. One of their finest performances was on July 5, 1968, at the Hollywood Bowl. Fortunately for fans, the cameras were rolling and the show was filmed. Technical problems during the concert prevented the inclusion of three tracks in the original VHS version of the show, but modern technology has enabled those tracks to be presented for the first time in the new Blu-ray, The Doors: Live At The Bowl ’68.

The show has been restored from the original negatives and the audio has been repaired on the three previously missing tracks, “Hello, I Love You,” “The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)” and “Spanish Caravan.” Engineer Bruce Botnick salvaged what he could from the original vocal (Morrison’s mic was cutting out during these songs) and flew in vocal bits from other recordings from the tour. The results are stunning — had no one knew any better, you’d be hard pressed to tell those vocals didn’t all come from the same show and now fans can view it in its entirety for the first time.

Blu-ray The Doors: Live At The Bowl '68The show opens, ironically, with “When The Music’s Over.” After an extended organ solo by Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison leaps into the frame for the song’s screaming intro. Clad in leather pants, a dark blue shirt and a colorful vest, Morrison immediately commands the stage with his brooding, rock god persona. Guitarist Robby Krieger adds a wailing, psychedelic solo to this stunning opener.

The band pays homage to their blues roots with a driving “Back Door Man” that is arguably more energetic than the original. After an extended guitar solo, the band flawlessly segues into “Five To One” before an ending reprise of “Back Door Man.” It’s a medley that works, taking two songs and making them stronger by combining them.

“Forget the night, live with us in forests of azure,” beckons Morrison during “The WASP (Texas Radio And The Big Beat),” a track that blends sparse accompaniment with spoken word. Morrison is statuesque, eyes closed, feeling the words as he delivers them to the audience. “Hello, I Love You” finds the band in more radio-friendly territory as they deliver a spot-on rendition.

Krieger plays a tripped out slide intro to “Moonlight Drive,” with Morrison finally removing the mic from its stand in this atmospheric track. “Spanish Caravan,” offered in its entirety for the first time, has Krieger and Manzarek in unison for the song’s intro and features a strong vocal from Morrison.

Morrison teases the crowd, asking what song they want to hear, knowing it will be “Light My Fire,” and instead screams out the nightmarish track, “Wake Up!” before finally giving in and playing a fine version of arguably their most famous song. A comical moment happens during the show’s final track, "The End," when Morrison, who had taken LSD before the show, became convinced there was a grasshopper on stage, only to find out it was a moth. It’s an amusing reminder of a rock era long since passed.

The Blu-ray is in 1080i High Definition Widescreen 16x9 (1.78:1) with DTS HD Master Audio 96/24 and LPCM Stereo audio tracks. The presentation, both visually and sonically, is nothing short of stunning. The Blu-ray includes a number of bonus features, including interviews with the band members, a featuring on restoring the film and its audio and live TV appearances including a fine “Light My Fire” from The Jonathan Winters Show.

Through the wonders of modern technology, Live At The Bowl ’68 is presented in its entirety for the first time. Its fantastic restored audio and video, combined with a great performance from this legendary band make it a must own for Doors fans.