Re-opening the doors of perception
Ray Manzarek and Michael McClure
At The Opera House, Toronto, Ont.
A distant voice calls out, "What happens after the fire?" Travel beneath the city and a sun shines in the tunnel wasteland that is Toronto's Opera House. On this Valentine's Day, Cupid saves his arrows for the 350 people who trade in a world of black and white for Ray Manzarek's abyss of colour.
On stage in lounge lizard attire, Manzarek and San Francisco poet Michael McClure helped to conjure the spirit of an old friend vanished and gone. No, Jim Morrison was not spotted on this cool evening, but the muse did descend through McClure's words and Manzarek's Yamaha electric grand.
In this stream-of-consciousness reading, there was no mosh pit or crowded dance floor to detract from the focus of the performers. Aging gracefully, Manzarek did his head-bobbing best to provide a platform from which McClure could springboard his poetic musings.
McClure tackled the artist's endless search for home: "Looking for a self to hold this mind/ Been there many times/ Held fast in the days between/ Going back to Cali in a dream."
Manzarek's piano playing was able to fill the vacuums and spaces in between McClure's words. The dancing notes were like an optimistic break from the urgency of the voice.
The highlight of the show was "In Memorium," which served as the lone tribute to Morrison, based loosely around "Riders on the Storm." While some parts of the performance tended to drag, Manzarek took time to give an improvised lesson for "Light my Fire" while McClure reminisced about cocaine horror stories during The Band's Last Waltz.
What would Big Jim be doing today if he were around? We're talking about a genius body of work that got lost or spilled all over the floor. But at least on this night, signing on with Manzarek and McClure, we were given a glimpse into what might have been.