VETERANS MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM - 11/02/1968

COLUMBUS, OH - U.S.A.



Venue Address: 300 W Broad St. - Columbus, OH 
Promotion: Ben Cowall/WCOL/WKYC
Event: In Concert

Also Performing:
Unknown

Setlist:
Tell All The People (Opening Song)
Back Door Man
Five To One
Not To Touch The Earth
When The Music's Over
Break On Through
Love Me Two Times
Hello, I Love You
Unknown Song (Ray On Vocals)
The Celebration Of The Lizard
The End
Light My Fire (Power Cut)
(Audience Protests)
Light My Fire

Recordings / Film:
Radio Promotional Advertisement

Photographers:
Unidentified (Amateur)

Reviews / Info:
-Radio stations and newspapers advertise two performances at 7:00pm & 10:00pm for this night.
-Police call an end to the show during Light My Fire.
-Audience members refuse to leave following a power cut to the stage.
-The Doors return to the stage and continue their performance of Light My Fire.


"The first time I read Jerry Hopkins & Danny Sugerman's Jim Morrison biography No One Here Gets Out Alive back when it was published in 1980, I came across the following sentence, "The concerts in Milwaukee and Columbus on the 1st and 2nd (of November) were ordinary." I was at the concert in Columbus on November 2nd. After police stopped the show during the set-ending "Light My Fire" and ordered the crowd to disperse, the audience refused to leave the auditorium for 45 minutes and subsequently began ripping up & setting fire to the seats in Veteran's Memorial. I'm not sure what constituted an 'ordinary' show to Sugerman in sunny Los Angeles, but in Columbus, Ohio, this was not your everyday rock & roll show.

The Doors opened with "Tell All The People" that wouldn't be released until The Soft Parade album in July of 1969. That was another great thing about 60's live concerts, there were no rules & regulations. Bands weren't required to start the show with the first cut off their newest release. Everything wasn't pre-programmed to match up with the lighting cues or the backing samples. The band actually played and sang all the instruments and vocals in the songs. Imagine that in this 21st century of Kanye, Lady Gaga, or even U-2.

The Doors entire live show teetered on the brink of disaster at almost any and every given moment. Songs got shortened, songs got wildly elongated; not only did instrumental solos by Ray Manzarek on organ and Robbie Krieger on guitar get improvised, Jim Morrison improvised entire verses & choruses. I'm not sure there were more than four or five songs where Morrison sang the original lyrics. And through it all John Densmore sat above, pounding out the beat, keeping it all together.

I'm not sure how to convey to you today in 2013 how simultaneously shambolic and truly transcendent the Doors show was at every turn. Forget setlists: Densmore would hop off the drum riser and the band would huddle-up by Manzarek's keyboards every three or four songs to hash out (no pun intended) what they were going to play next. And these weren't polite NFL huddles where the quarterback barks out plays and everybody snaps into formation, this was four guys talking, yelling & gesticulating until the next part of the set took some kind of shape.

Anything could happen. Jim Morrison would sit down on the edge of the stage and start reciting poetry, sometimes with the mic, sometimes just yelling through his hands. And then the band would fall in behind him and improvise a tune like they'd rehearsed it dozens of times. Other times they'd just sit out and watch him recite for as long as the words & muse moved him. Morrison would dance around like a shaman during the solos, or just simply walk off into the wings and leave the stage to the three instrumentalists. Ray Manzarek did at least two lead vocals that I can remember.

And let's make one fact abundantly clear: I am a happily-married, heterosexual, working-class Ohio boy, but goddamn, that November night Jim Morrison was the most gorgeous man I have ever seen IN MY LIFE.

I know the band played "Five To One." They played both "The End" and "When The Music's Over." They played all of "Celebration Of The Lizard," along with all the pop hits - "People Are Strange," "Love Me Two Times," "Hello, I Love You." They played "Break On Through," and "Back Door Man." I can't even picture how long they were onstage, it was a LONG fucking set. The show in Columbus took place well after the infamous New Haven, Connecticut, show where Morrison got busted onstage for bad-mouthing the cops after they maced him backstage. By time The Doors crashed into a set-closing "Light My Fire," Columbus policemen had started to gather at the sides of the stage, near the PA speakers. The entire set had been liberally sprinkled with profanities, let alone just flat-out provocations, you could FEEL the tension in the air.

But when Morrison strolled up to the mic at the end of the "Fire" solos - at the point where Robbie Krieger did the "duh-duh-duh-DUH-uh, duh-duh-duh-DUH-uh" guitar figure - and started YELLING "Fuck, fuck, fuck, Fu-uck, Fuck, fuck, fuck, fu-uck" you could tell all hell was going to break loose. The cops initially just looked at one another nervously, like they were trying to figure out what they were supposed to do, how this was supposed to be handled. Finally, after the band had moved into the last verse of the song, someone in authority made the decision to just close the curtains and end the show. Before they were fully closed though, Morrison & Krieger scooted to the front of the stage, in front of the curtain, and kept singing & playing, with Manzarek & Densmore somewhere behind them, out of sight.

At that point the fire curtain - a weighted, heavily-padded piece of fabric designed to prevent a fire spreading from the stage to the auditorium - was dropped from the ceiling into the orchestra pit, cutting all of The Doors from the audience's view. But they still kept playing. Thirty seconds later all the red lights on the PA in the wings of the stage blinked out as power was cut to the speakers. But John Densmore just kept pounding away, completely out of sight behind the regular and fire curtains. About a minute later that tribal drumbeat ceased when, I would imagine, someone either took the sticks away from Densmore or toppled him off the drum riser.

This entire time the audience was on its feet, shouting and going nuts at the performance. The termination of Densmore's beat brought a chorus of boos & derision from the crowd and when a burly cop groped his way out from under the fire curtain and announced to the assembled multitude, "The show's over! It's over! You kids go home!" his pronouncement was met with a hail of anything the audience could find to throw - plastic cups, pens, coins, hats, gloves (it was November), etc. This all went on for almost 45 minutes and I don't think I saw more than 20 or 30 people leave the auditorium.

My dad - who got me into all of those rock shows (see blog entry Birthday Blog, June 30th, 2013) - came to check on Dave and I at one point, but he and his fellow Central Ticket Office employees had their hands full trying to secure the box office from being overrun with pissed-off concert-goers. I convinced him we were fine and he went back to work. Two rows up from us, people had started to tear up the Veteran's Memorial seats and set fire to them. Cops rushed over and put them out, but it was all they could do to keep all the small fires doused. Light my fire, indeed. It was pandemonium.

Finally, when it became painfully clear that NOBODY in the chanting, booing, out-of-control crowd was leaving Vet's, and that the outnumbered police in the venue had no chance of clearing the auditorium, the fire curtain was raised, the PA lights winked back on, the stage curtain parted and The Doors blasted back into "Light My Fire" AT THE EXACT SAME NOTE WHERE THEY HAD BEEN FORCED TO STOP THE FIRST TIME! It was simultaneously the coolest, cleverest and greatest display of rock & roll stagecraft and mayhem I have witnessed in my 61 years on the planet.

Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison, God bless you wherever you are tonight.


PS. I've been asked by the good folks at MildEquator to expand on my original Growing Old With Rock & Roll post, in order to dispel or clear up - from my catbird seat as the teenage son of one of the promoter's staff - some misinformation or fuzzy rumors regarding the Columbus Doors appearances.

There was only one show at Veteran's Memorial on Saturday, November 2nd, 1968 - not two, an early and a late show, as has been (mistakenly) reported in some quarters. If there HAD been two shows, my dad would have had to go to work early, and certainly would have taken me with him for both appearances. (Further, as noted in the above blog, the single Doors show in Columbus didn't sell out. If it had, dad wouldn't have been able to pull me a ticket. Columbus, Ohio - even with its status as State Capitol - was still a kind of Big Small Town in 1968, it did not count 3174 (Vet's Memorial capacity) Doors fans among its population, let alone 6000.)

Also, there seems to be some question as to whether there was a Doors show scheduled for Columbus in 1970 that was subsequently cancelled in the wake of the Miami fiasco/arrests. Again, I can pretty categorically state that I would have been aware of - and mightily hyped for - a Doors appearance my senior year of high school through my familial connections with Central Ticket Office. In addition to my dad working at the shows, Ben Cowall - the head of CTO - was my godfather. We were Italian. We were tight.


Ricki C.
Columbus, OH
Copyright © 2014 Ric Cacchione

A Special Thanks to Ricki C. for providing his review of the concert to MildEquator.com! Be sure to check out Ric's blog at http://rickic614.blogspot.ca/

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