Live in Pittsburgh 1970 (2008) is the sixth (more or less) full-length live set from the Doors' own Bright Midnight Archives. It is also one of its shortest and arguably most dynamic entries -- a single CD capturing the quartet of Jim Morrison (vocals/hand percussion), Ray Manzarek (keyboards/bass pedals/vocals), Robbie Krieger (guitars), and John Densmore (drums/percussion) at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh, PA on May 2, 1970. Granted, the audio fidelity isn't as dynamic as other volumes in the Bright Midnight catalog. Additionally, there are a few "missing" pieces of audio, which will be detailed in a moment. However, the nearly 80 minutes of inspired interaction eclipse the better sounding and more complete performances. Thanks in large part to the atypically coherent and together Morrison, the band are able to collectively turn corners with the rugged precision that had defined the essence of the combo. While certainly not bound to a prescribed song list or running order, there is a degree of continuity in many of the post-Miami (March 1, 1969) performances. One primary difference being the comparative lack of tunes from their recently released (less than two months earlier) long-player Morrison Hotel (1970). But in the spirit of their latest studio affair, the show opens with a blues-fuelled medley of Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" and a powerful reading of their own "Five to One." Linking the two is a brief diversion through a recitation titled "Love Hides." A blazing "Roadhouse Blues" -- the sole Morrison Hotel representative -- follows as Krieger's incendiary fretwork instigates similarly combustible contributions from the rest of the ensemble. Continuing in a considerably bluesy vein, the Doors catch up with their psychedelic past as it coalesces into a nearly quarter-hour combination of the rockabilly classic "Mystery Train" -- including quotes from the Impressions' "People Get Ready" -- with Morrison's own "Away in India," prior to settling into a raucous overhaul of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads Blues." The creepy and ominous love song "Universal Mind," nor the sinister ballad "Someday Soon" made it onto a studio album. That said, the former title could be found on Absolutely Live (1970). It was not taken from this concert, but from the Aquarius Theater in Los Angeles, CA on July 21, 1969. Incidentally, that entire show is available as Live at the Aquarius Theatre: The Second Performance (2001). While on the subject, it is interesting that even as the Pittsburgh gig was recorded to be among the source materials for Absolutely Live, not a note was used in the final product. The lengthy "When the Music's Over" is one of the strongest outings of the night as the Doors potent improvisational prowess turn the tune into a springboard for some remarkable sonic side trips. They slip in and out of "Break on Through," and a cursory diversion into the Soft Parade (1968) era outtake "Push Push," which leads them into vamping the conclusion to the album's rarely uncorked title track, which is listed here as "The Soft Parade Vamp." The humorous "Tonight You're in for a Special Treat" is a bit of dialogue from Morrison. He jokingly refers to his pending Miami trial for indecent exposure before Manzarek takes a rare lead vocal on a definite return to the blues and to the Willie Dixon songbook for "Close to You." Wrapping up the festivities is a remarkably energetic and playful "Light My Fire," which is where the second "lost" piece of audio resides. Thanks to some handy digital editing by the Doors' original producer and engineer Bruce Botnick, it is doubtful the majority of discerning ears would have even been able to tell. Botnick comes clean in the info-laden, 12-page liner notes booklet that accompanies the otherwise highly recommended Live in Pittsburgh 1970.
Share this page
Review by Lindsay Planer