Love Him Madly: The Doors Reimagined @ His Majesty’s Theatre
w/ Perth Symphony Orchestra, Justin Burford
Friday, August 2, 2019
It was a privilege to attend Perth Symphony Orchestra’s Love Him Madly: The Doors Reimagined at His Majesty’s Theatre on Friday night. Having missed out on seeing the previous Unplugged: Nirvana Reimagined performed by the combination of Perth Symphony Orchestra and frontman Justin Burford, I was intrigued when it was announced that the music of The Doors was chosen for the next reimagining.
My intrigue grew more when being handed laser glasses upon entry, and when the curtains came up I could see that this was an orchestra that liked to have fun. The musicians dressed to the theme of the 60s with beehive wigs and knee high boots spotted, a personal favourite being the beatnik tucked away in the back row. The crowd was all set for a psychedelic experience evoking the 60s and a new way of hearing the music of The Doors – and of course the lyricism of Jim Morrison, performed by Justin Burford.
This was not a night to hear cover versions of The Doors, this was a reimagining, and any expectations were better left outside the theatre. It was also clear to see that this was not a night to let the frontman have the whole stage with musicians in the background. This was about the music, and the whole orchestra coming together with the vocals to create the show.
It kicked off with the conductor Jessica Gethin, complete with flares, leading the orchestra into the first number of the night, The Crystal Ship. Justin Burford, fresh from launching new End of Fashion material over two nights last weekend, eased into the role of Jim as though he had known the Lizard King himself.
The orchestral flourishes weaving in and out of the songs showed intricacy and sophistication. A great song to start with, the set then went into some of the most commercially successful songs for The Doors – Hello, I Love You and Light My Fire. Here we got our first taste of the enormous potential that comes with breaking a song down and creating something new. There were jazz flute solos, intricate violin work and what I think was a clarinet or oboe rocking out (coming from the beatnik at the back) during this song.
The melodies and eerily ‘Jim-esque’ vocals from Burford were harmonised with the orchestra while he treated the audience to some classic Morrison stage antics throughout Waiting for the Sun, Touch Me, People are Strange and Strange Days (the latter two forming a ‘strange’ medley). The night turned to songs recorded towards the end of The Doors performing with Jim, with noticeable changes in the vocals reflecting what was happening during this time of recording. As we read on the screen the historical facts around was happening to the band at this time (a delight for those of us history nerds), we heard how Morrison was affected by the ‘rock and roll lifestyle’. I could hear Burford channelling this into the songs, the slurring, the gravelling tones, for what we now know was the beginning of the end for The Doors.
Highlights of the night came from Not to Touch the Earth with the orchestra demonstrating and reminding us just how varied and diverse classical music is, and the epic encore The End. This experience took us places the original music never did, places that were hiding between the original notes and the dark places inside Jim’s lyrical mind. It was also a nod to the musicianship of Ray Manzarek (keyboardist), Robbie Krieger (lead guitarist) and John Densmore (drums) of The Doors.
It wasn’t until after the show that I learned that Love Him Madly had been composed by two WAAPA students in their final year, Callum O’Reilly and Corey Murphy. A congratulations to these two on their remarkable achievement and I look forward to the next reimagined body of work by the Perth Symphony Orchestra.
Photos by Richard Jefferson