Nearly thirty years to the day after their final concert, a reunited Doors returned to action with a new Lizard King: singer Ian Astbury of the Cult. "The tragedy and loss of Jim Morrison weighs heavily on all of us, but this ain't no tribute band," said keyboardist Ray Manzarek backstage at the House of Blues in Los Angeles on September 3rd, after the band's first live appearance.
The new Doors lineup also includes founding guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer Stewart Copeland of the Police, filling in for John Densmore, who suffers from tinnitus. Playing bass is Angelo Barbera. Within days of the House of Blues show, a taping of four vintage songs for a radio program, the Doors would perform a full set at the Harley-Davidson Open Road festival at a racetrack in nearby Fontana.
The surviving members are also planning to record an album of new material for release in 2003 and to tour next spring. Krieger and Manzarek have completed several new songs, and other material is being co-written by poet-rocker Jim Carroll.
Astbury was one of the guest vocalists who appeared in the Doors' VH1 Storytellers episode last year. "Out of all those guys, Ian was the one who's always been here saying, 'I'm available,'" said Krieger.
As the man stepping into the boots of one of rock's most notorious frontmen, Astbury understood the risks. "It's a huge responsibility," he said, "Jim is irreplaceable. But I'm thinking of this as like a classical recital of very important musical and political work. It's a living tradition."
The Cult, he added, "is on ice right now," which makes the Doors his central commitment. "This means more to me probably than signing my first record deal," he said. ""The Doors made me want to play music. I want it to succeed and take this music to where it should be."