The multi-talented Ray Manzarek brings his invigorating sound to the San Diego scene at Anthology on Feb. 28: The Doors of the 21st Century keyboardist Ray Manzarek performs at the Miller Rock Thru Time Celebrating 50 Years of Rock Concert at Roseland Sept. 17, 2004, in New York City.
Following Jim Morrison’s death in 1971, Manzarek and the other surviving members put out two studio albums under the Doors moniker before finally disbanding. Over the years, Manzarek and guitarist Robbie Krieger have reunited under a variety of names, including the Doors of the 21st Century and Riders on the Storm. When Manzarek isn’t performing alongside his longtime bandmate, he plays gigs with blues guitarist Roy Rogers.
At the age of 71, Manzarek could easily rest on his laurels and retire from music, but he maintains an infectious enthusiasm for playing that has only increased over time. It was that enthusiasm that drove the show at Anthology on Sunday night, as Manzarek and Rogers treated the crowd to an intimate and genial performance.
The pair played a variety of jazz and blues numbers, with special attention paid to Miles Davis and Bill Evans’ work. Manzarek’s fingers danced nimbly across his Roland keyboard as Rogers’ slide guitar provided gritty accents. Manzarek proved himself still at the top of his game, and his expressive playing made the mournful, instrumental version of the Doors’ “Moonlight Drive” -- which he claimed Morrison wrote about San Diego -- an evening highlight.
The set followed a veggies-and-dessert approach, with Manzarek playing jazz standards and 12-bar boogies, then rewarding the crowd with an obligatory Doors classic. He even engaged in a question-and-answer session with the audience, gamely responding to inquiries about Morrison, his hatred of director Oliver Stone -- whom he disparaged for his use of “too much tequila and white powder” -- and his falling out with Doors drummer John Densmore.
Despite the occasional tossed barb, Manzarek kept the tone light, and he and Rogers seemed to enjoy playing off one another. Unfortunately, Rogers’ guitar work often felt superfluous and distracting, robbing the songs of the intimacy they had when Manzarek would play unaccompanied. Manzarek’s vocals on Doors classics “Love Me Two Times” and “Backdoor Man” lacked the potency of Morrison’s signature delivery, but watching a statesman of his caliber perform remained an irreducible treat. Morrison may be long gone, but Manzarek’s unshakeable lust for life was the real star of the show.
Chris Maroulakos is a writer and editor for the San Diego music blog Owl and Bear.