This Way Out 

Jim Morrison is still dead -- but his old band is pretty good, in spite of everything.

It's considered by many to be bad luck to wear a dead man's shoes, but singer Ian Astbury must not be superstitious. The former leader of portentous-metal band the Cult has a new gig singing for old band the Doors, and if he's not actually impersonating the late Jim Morrison, then what, one wonders, is the point of going to see them? The act -- which bills itself as "the Doors of the 21st Century" and features original members Ray Manzarek (keyboards) and Robby Krieger (guitar) as well as two new guys on drums and bass -- plays all the old Doors songs, stretched out too long with jamming, necessarily keyboard-heavy, while Astbury flails about and sulks in the role of Morrison, who died in 1971.

Flailing and sulking, moreover, is allegedly what Morrison did best, and according to Manzarek, Astbury has the same "dark, brooding, Celtic" presence that the late singer had. Another thing he has in common with Jimbo is that they both lack a sense of humor. Astbury once informed a writer that he didn't like the movie This Is Spinal Tap because, he said, he thought it was making fun of him personally -- a reaction one imagines would be remarkably similar to Jim Morrison's, were he alive to utter it. Frankly, to go see the Doors 32 years after their demise would rate as a perverse impulse, but perhaps not an entirely unjustified one, especially if you're a big fan. Reviews of the band's recent gigs have been pretty good, citing the remaining members' undoubted musicianship. Manzarek, let's recall, discovered and produced the band X, and Astbury's onstage intensity counts as a strength. One thing about this tour is that it puts paid to the long-bandied-about idea that Jimbo is still alive and living in Paris. At least for his cohorts, the much-vaunted doors of perception that he so longed to open seem to have remained unalterably shut.

The Doors of the 21st Century perform Friday, July 18, 8 p.m., at Chronicle Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass Rd., Concord. Tickets: $30-$55 from 510-625-8497.

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