Live At The Bowl ‘68 is a fantastic reissue of the Doors’ legendary appearance at the Hollywood Bowl on July 5, 1968, previously released on the 1987 album Live at the Hollywood Bowl; a video release followed in 1991. Both versions had an edited version of the concert. This new release has the complete version — for the most part. Due to an equipment malfunction, Jim Morrison’s vocals weren’t properly recorded on three numbers: “Hello, I Love You,” “The WASP (Texas Radio and the Big Beat),” and “Spanish Caravan.” So longtime Doors engineer Bruce Botnick edited in vocals from other performances to fill the gap, making this the first time show has been released in its entirety.
A new edit of the footage has been done as well — and thankfully not the kind of rapid-fire editing that ruins the look of so many of today’s concert films. The stage is strikingly bare, the most lavish adornment being a wall of speakers behind the band, mostly for effect, as a number of them weren’t even hooked up (there was a volume limit at the Bowl). In front are the band and their instruments (John Densmore’s drumkit is surprisingly small); no stage set, no props, no elaborate light show, or dry ice, or explosions. Just plain unadulterated Doors.
For the most part, Morrison is stationary, holding on to the mike, eyes shut, but nonetheless exuding a powerful presence that’s mesmerizing. Liner notes reveal that he dropped acid before the show, which does help to loosen him up, and he eventually drops to the floor at the climax of “The Unknown Soldier,” and leaps around without restraint during “The End.” The Doors viewed records and live shows as different entities; there’s no attempt made to duplicate the sound of the record, which gives a tension to the performance as you’re never sure what’s going to happen next.
While it’s great to have the show on CD, it’s the DVD that naturally gives you a fuller experience. The DVD (or Blu-ray) also offers a 5.1 soundtrack as well as a stereo mix, and there are some nice extras; three “making of” documentaries, a video for “Gloria,” and performances from “Wild Child” (from The Smothers Brothers Show) and “Light My Fire” (from The Jonathan Winters Show).
For more on The Doors, read our 2006 cover story.