When Doors’ tribute act Riders on the Storm takes the stage, the band won’t just be covering the iconic ’60s rock band’s greatest hits. Led by frontman (and Jim Morrison sound-alike) Eamon Cronin, Riders aims to re-create the immersive experience of seeing the actual band live.
“The whole approach is based not just on the audio part of the gig, it’s the overall picture,” says Cronin, who performs from 9 p.m. to midnight on Friday, Dec. 15, at the Showroom at Golden Nugget. “There’s a visual thing — the way we dress, the way we act on stage.”
To maintain the spontaneity of the real Doors, Cronin never makes a setlist. The band will no doubt cover The Doors’ greatest hits, including “Light My Fire,” “L.A. Woman,” “Hello, I Love You” and “Touch Me,” while also mixing in lesser known tracks, as reflected in live recordings and bootleg tapes, using vintage ’60s equipment only to enhance the time-machine effect.
“We’re not going to do a straight up, AM radio show,” Cronin says. “We like to keep it alive and breathing. I still listen to The Doors all the time, because you can never be good enough. You can never be that person, but you can always try to get closer, and you should try to get closer.”
The relatively short career span for The Doors, which lasted less than a decade until the death of Morrison in 1971 at age 27, has helped fuel a cottage industry of new music, books and documentaries.
“He was always a mythological guy when he was alive, and they’ve had the last 40 years to build on the myth of Jim Morrison,” Cronin says. “All the stuff that comes out keeps people young and old interested and wanting to go out and see a Doors band.”
Cronin himself discovered The Doors during an ’80s revival of their music when he would sing along to their records. “The organ sound got me intrigued and the drums,” he says. “Whether you like the drums or not — they’re different from anyone else — they sound only like The Doors.”
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A graduate of the Hartford Conservatory of Music who plays piano, clarinet and drums, Cronin formed Riders on the Storm more than 25 years ago. Today, he splits his time among the tribute act and Celtic rock band Lenahan, psychedelic group The Midnight Sun and veteran rock band Max Creek.
Some of the drama of The Doors, which made regular headlines for Morrison’s on- and off-stage antics, as well as its controversial lyrics, has been reflected in Cronin’s own life. In 2009, he fell 21 feet off a stage in Spain, hitting his head and breaking his back in several places. After intensive physical, speech and cognitive therapy, Cronin says he was able to return to the stage less than three months later.
“I’m lucky I can still walk and talk,” he says.
Despite his immersion in all things Doors-related, Cronin has yet to make a pilgrimage to the grave of Morrison, who is buried in Paris’ Pere Lachaise cemetery (though Cronin finally may do so in 2018 with Michelle Campbell, a photographer known for her images at Morrison’s grave).
“I never felt a giant need to go there — it’s someone’s grave I didn’t know,” he says.
In other ways almost unspoken, Cronin does feel connected to Morrison.
“It’s hard to put it into words, but it’s on so many levels,” he says. “The experiences I’ve had with The Doors — and the way they’ve influenced me — have been a huge part of my life on stage and off stage.”
History repeats itself
On Dec. 9, 1967, The Doors’ added another chapter to their legend when police in New Haven, Conn., arrested lead singer Jim Morrison during a performance, charging him with inciting a riot, indecency and public obscenity.
Several decades later, the New Haven police interrupted a performance of Doors tribute act Riders on the Storm, again arresting the lead singer — Eamon Cronin — on charges of inciting a riot.
“It was the end of the night,” he says. “We were told we were done. It was the end of the night, the lights were on and the audience was jumping on stage.”
Fortunately, as Cronin describes it, cooler heads prevailed, and he didn’t end up in the “hoosegow.”