It’s Oscar week in Los Angeles, but the hottest party the night before the Oscars was at the iconic Sunset Marquis on Saturday night (Feb. 8), where the Morrison Hotel Gallery celebrated its twentieth anniversary — and the fiftieth anniversary of its namesake Doors album — with an all-star jam anchored by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger.
Before an insanely packed overflow crowd living it up on free Jack Daniels shots and an open bar, some unusual pairings, like Michael Bolton rocking “Light My Fire” and Miley Cyrus absolutely slaying “Roadhouse Blues,” led a raucous two-hour plus celebration of the Doors.
Before the show, Billboard spoke backstage with Krieger about the timelessness of the Doors and why the band has enjoyed a recent upswing in popularity among artists.
“In the last five years or so, it seems like more and more people, more and more stars, popular artists, want to do the Doors stuff, so it’s been pretty cool,” Krieger said. “Like Orianthi, she’s been playing with me the last couple of years. We had her out to our St. Jude’s event. Just people you wouldn’t think would be into the Doors. I love it. Like Miley Cyrus, I never put that one together.”
Cyrus has a monster rock album in her (as she showed last year at the Chris Cornell tribute in L.A.), and ignited the crowd on “Roadhouse Blues.” For Krieger, that is the seminal song off the Morrison Hotel album.
“From Morrison Hotel I think ‘Roadhouse Blues’ is kind of the signature one,” Krieger says. “I know when I play it anywhere that’s always the song everybody wants to jam on. It’s probably easier to play than most of the Doors songs. But there are a couple of spots in it, if you mess it up it’s a train wreck.”
On this night, Cyrus and guitarist Andrew Watt, along with Krieger, delivered a magnificent performance, one of several on the night.
Other standouts included Nicole Atkins delivering a mesmerizing “Crystal Ship”; Bolton’s invigorating “Light My Fire,” which also was a crowd favorite; Dennis Quaid leading a bluesy, ferocious “L.A. Woman; The Struts rendition of “Riders On The Storm” and of course recent multiple Grammy-winner Gary Clark Jr. playing guitar for photographer Danny Clinch and his Tangier Blues Band for several songs, including Prince’s “Kiss.”
The show was a testament to the diversity of the Doors’ catalog, which Krieger credits for the continual interest in the band.
“To me there are so many of our songs that get overlooked and I think that’s why the Doors are still important because even the deep tracks are great,” he said. “It wasn’t just one song, or two, like most groups are thought of. Groups like the Stones and the Beatles, they all have lots of deep tracks that are great. I think that’s the difference. I think that’s why certain groups remain, if I do say so myself.”
Clinch told Billboard he was on hand to honor not just the Doors, but the night’s photography aspect, led by Henry Diltz, who shot the Morrison Hotel album cover, and Morrison Hotel Gallery owner Timothy White. (White and designer John Varvatos were the evening’s hosts.) The gallery is hosting a Doors exhibit with multiple never-before-seen photos at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which runs through Feb. 23.
“I’m a big fan of Henry Diltz, I’m a big fan of the Doors, I’m a fan of the Morrison Hotel Gallery,” Clinch said. “I show my work here as well. But Henry is one of my inspirations.”
Billboard also spoke with Diltz about the cover. “That day when we got in the Volkswagen van and drove down to the Morrison Hotel, the four guys and me and my partner, Gary Burden, none of us thought, ‘Wow, 50 years from now, this will be a thing,'” he said. “You never know.”
Indeed, that was a common theme between Krieger and Diltz, who seemed as pleasantly surprised as anyone to be celebrating this album half a century later with new generations of Doors fans.