When is a tribute band not a tribute band? When, it seems, part of its membership consists of the original band members. While for many Doors aficionados this was a golden opportunity to see two men who once shared a stage with Jim Morrison perform live on stage, the show existed in some kind of weird halfway state between tribute and revival.
While guitarist Robby Krieger and keyboard player Ray Manzarek were afforded a kind of hallowed air of respect as the founding members of the band, those others onstage looked as awestruck as the crowd to be in the same room with them. Not so much their session bassist and drummer, who both meltedinto the background, as Ian Astbury, the former Cult singer, who has been drafted in to fill Morrison's mighty vocal void.
Even taking into account his relative fame and track record, this is a big gig for Astbury. Thanks in part to Oliver Stone's bio-pic,The Doors have attained a kind of quasi-mythical status that only The Beatles or Stones can outdo. It's what adds to the thrill of seeing Krieger and Manzarek on stage together here, and what makes Astbury's job all the harder. To give him all due credit, he does it about as well as is possible.
Morrison was renowned as a performer of intensity and sexuality. Astbury has the look to a tee, in black shirt and tight trousers, with winkle-picker brogues, mussed hair, and a dishevelled half-beard. He struts around the stage with purpose, yet it's his voice that truly impresses. He recreates Morrison's carnal, apocalyptic baritone well. This show's semi-authenticity already marks it out as the greatest Doors tribute show you'll ever see. It's a whole lot of fun and the meagre stage set-up fails to detract from an onslaught of fine songs played in exciting style.
Fan favourites such as "Light My Fire", "Touch Me" and "People Are Strange" are interspersed with album tracks such as "Not to Touch the Earth", "When the Music's Over" and a gentle, acoustic "Crystal Ship", each sounding commendably close to an amped-up version of the original. Yet, even when "LA Woman"'s original session bassist, Jerry Scheff, makes an appearance for a great, grinding version of the song, it only feels like something other than a good impersonation when Krieger and Manzarek are out front.
At Glasgow's King Tut's, a venue which hosts a gig almost every night of the year, a couple of particularly good quality Scots bands filled slots between Christmas and New Year. On the Thursday evening, one-time John Peel favourites Spare Snare returned with their first show in five years, while on the Saturday boisterous rockers The Grim Northern Social concluded the second part of a two-night residency at the venue.
Spare Snare drew a modest crowd. Still, their fans were kept happy by a set filled with janglesome and somewhat addictive indie-pop. Musically, they sound like Teenage Fanclub with a less capricious version of Morrissey on vocals. Singer Jan Burnett would look more the part in the former band, however - a rotund, bespectacled man in a floral cowboy shirt, he's an endearing frontman with a smooth crooner's voice and the nerve to call songs things like "Stop Complaining" and "Photograph Me Properly".
Their worn-down acoustic version of Destiny's Child's "Say My Name" is an inspired, yearning lament, and just the sort of leftfield trick such a personable band can easily get away with.
The Grim Northern Social, meanwhile, are an utterly opposite kind of beast, but no less satisfying for it. Their singer, Ewan MacFarlane, writes the kind of cocksure stomps that might appeal to fans of Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart, and he delivers them with a voice which is simply irresistible.
Songs such as "Honey" and "Favourite Girl" are built around fairly standard guitar anthem dynamics, but crucially catchy choruses are present and MacFarlane's vocals manage both raucous power and tenderness, as during the acoustic "Gasoline Queen".