Next Thursday, January 23rd, the two surviving members of the Doors — drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger — will make a rare appearance together at the Homeward Bound charity concert at the Wiltern in Los Angeles.
It’s been a couple of years since the pair last took the stage together, and one week out, Densmore admits to Rolling Stone that he and Krieger have yet to finalize a setlist — or even rehearse.
“I’m used to it!” Densmore says. “I was the one who did the setlists in the Doors, because nobody would, and just before going on stage, I’d sit down and go, ‘OK, guys, c’mon! What are we opening with?’ And I could get them into three or four songs, and then we’d wing it! Corralling musicians is like corralling cats.”
The Homeward Bound charity concert will benefit efforts to fight homelessness throughout California, and the lineup also boasts artists like Jason Mraz, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Ingrid Michaelson and Maddie Poppe. Densmore and Krieger will play a 30-minute, semi-acoustic set with Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic on bass and other Homeward Bound performers stepping in on vocals. The only requirement to fill in for Jim Morrison, Densmore says: “We need a singer with leather pants — that’s the crux.”
The parts of the setlist that have been finalized promise some unique collaborations. Willie Nelson’s son, Micah, will helm “Roadhouse Blues,” and Haley Reinheart will sing a stripped-down version of “People Are Strange,” with Densmore suggesting it might just be “her, Robby, and me on a little hand drum.” Densmore also teases a rendition of “Light My Fire” with several singers, and notes that the Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart personally requested to sing “Hello, I Love You.”
“We don’t usually play that live, but what the hell, why not?” Densmore says.
While the Homeward Bound concert is billing Desnmore and Krieger’s performance as their first together in 20 years, the pair have taken the stage together several times over the past decade. In 2017, they played at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle when the Doors received the Founders Award; that show also featured Novoselic performing “Light My Fire” on accordion, which is how he linked up with Densmore and Krieger, paving the way for their performance together next week.
A year before that, Densmore and Krieger played a Stand Up to Cancer benefit in honor of late Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek, while in 2013 they buried the hatchet of a long-simmering legal battle with an intimate show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art just after Manzarek’s death.
Despite these sporadic sets, for Densmore, getting on stage with Krieger is like riding a bike. “When we played LACMA, we definitely had not played together for 10 years, more,” Densmore says. “And, damn! When you have done these songs every night for many, many years, they’re just in your blood. In two bars we were back. It’s just part of you.”
Proceeds from the Homeward Bound show will benefit People Assisting the Homeless, a non-profit dedicated to building affordable housing and providing support to people struggling with homelessness throughout California. “It’s incredible that those that have the ability to give back have stepped up to do so,” Homeward Bound organizer Jonathan Shank said. “We are thrilled to have so many great artists at the first-ever Homeward Bound concert and grateful to everyone who has supported this worthy cause.”
For Densmore, it’s a crucial cause, one that not only benefits his home state, but speaks to the larger problems plaguing the United States.
“The Doors were born out of the womb of the L.A. woman, so when you get the brass ring, you give back,” he says. “It’s the natural thing to do. So we’re giving back to the city that fed us artistically. This homelessness thing, it’s a problem in every city; it’s a huge problem. It’s not just L.A., it’s everywhere. And why is that? Because the gap between the rich and the poor is the biggest in the history of our country. You’ve got billionaires-slash-kings and workers who can’t afford to live in the kingdom. They’ve gotta drive two hours out of town to find rent cheap enough. There’s big problems; you can’t just put a band-aid on it.”
But Desnmore adds that he’s optimistic when staring down the future: “2020 is going to be a pivotal year. Big corners turned personally and collectively, and I’m excited about the future, because I think the rantings of old dinosaurs, they’re just the last of the tail wagging.”