Hugo Race & The True Spirit present L.A. Woman 50th Anniversary @ Thornbury Theatre – 25/02/22

Sporting very Jim Morrison-esque attire – black floral shirt with additional decorative scarves – special guest J.P. Shilo opens proceedings with an inspired performance of Celebration of the Lizard, Morrison’s classic cult performance work, backed by The True Spirit. An extraordinarily talented multi-instrumentalist, Shilo has played on many classic Australian releases by artists including Rowland S. Howard, Mick Harvey, Adalita, The Triffids and The Blackeyed Susans. In full Jim mode, he captivates; we hang on his every word and gesture.

After setting this evening’s dark, psychedelic tone and perfectly capturing the essence of The Lizard King, Shilo heads stage left to swap places with Hugo Race. “Is everybody in?” – Race repeats this question three times, quoting “The Jim” (An American Prayer), and the audience responds in the affirmative with escalating enthusiasm.

Performing The Doors’ final studio album, 1970’s L.A. Woman, Race, Shilo and The True Spirit – in quintet mode, with additional keyboardist Julitha Ryan – harness these freeform arrangements with aplomb. Race commends us for being “still brave enough to go out in the brave new world of 2020,” and expertly conducts this outstanding band of players with added swagger, channeling Morrison throughout. “We’ve gotta do The Jim just how The Jim wanted to be,” Race acknowledges, while instructing The True Spirit plus Shilo to slow the tempo right down at one point.

Love Her Madly careens along with Ryan nailing Ray Manzarek’s trademark, hypnotic keyboard playing. In light of the pesky no dancing rule having recently been lifted, punters swarm down to the front of the stage, twirling around and busting expressive moves (particularly during the title track from The Doors album we’re celebrating tonight, during which the “Mister mojo risin’…” segment unleashes maximum mayhem). The gravelly, world-weary brilliance of Race’s timbre adds gravitas, particularly throughout Been Down So Long.

Brett Poliness really is a hot contender for the title of “best drummer on the planet” (as he’s introduced by Race tonight). On electronics and harmonica, Michelangelo Russo adds delightfully weird ambience. Race drops to his knees to deliver Crawling King Snake, much to the delight of front-row revellers. When Bryan Colechin leans into Riders on the Storm’s ominous, moody bassline as Ryan imitates the sound of rainfall with cascading notes on her keyboard, we’re gutted by the realisation that this is L.A. Woman’s closing track!

But thankfully this glorious band returns to the stage to present one “incredibly long” encore song, The End. We’re truly in awe of Race and Poliness during this lurching beast of a track. And after a gentlemen approaches the stage to give Race the wind-up signal, he nods before expertly drawing the sprawling arrangement to a premature conclusion using just eye contact and a couple of subtle gestures to rein in his band. They certainly don’t finish abruptly, and Race explores the depth of his vocal range with one final, measured, “This is the end…”

Discover The Doors at JB Hi-Fi.

Read our interview with Slash, all about his recently released album with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, 4.