- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2001

The baby-boom generation may be getting older, but its love for music has not died. Thats why 60s and 70s cover bands seem to be more popular than ever: A vintage Grateful Dead show, four mop-haired Beatles imitators and even an Aerosmith cover band have hit the D.C. area in the past few months.
Now singer Joe Russo and his band, the Soft Parade, are bringing Jim Morrison and the music of the Doors back to life. The Soft Parade, a tribute band that uses vintage instruments and whose musicians look like their counterparts in the Doors, plays the State Theatre in Falls Church Saturday.
Mr. Russo is as mysterious about what he does as the enigmatic Mr. Morrison was describing in his own performances.
"The music creates whatever performance is onstage," Mr. Russo says from his home in New Jersey. "I guess I just feel what he felt. I guess thats why its real. Its not an act. Its not an impression."
Starting a Doors tribute band was not a light undertaking, Mr. Russo says. He come up with the idea of doing a re-creation of the band back in high school, when he first started noticing his similarities to Mr. Morrison.
After seeing a Beatles tribute band and an uncanny performance by an Elvis impersonator, Mr. Russo realized he could do the same thing to revive Mr. Morrisons music.
"I had to find people who resembled the players and were into the music very deeply," he says. "It wasnt easy."
He officially formed the Soft Parade in 1990, hiring additional musicians to round out the group. The lineup has changed several times over the years, with Mr. Russo making sure each new performer has the look and sound down just right.
The current lineup includes Mr. Russo as vocalist Morrison, Roy Weinberger as drummer John Densmore, Mike Abel as keyboardist Ray Manzarek and Joseph Bilotti as guitarist Robbie Krieger.
Since forming, the band has played throughout the United States and the world, with dates in Germany, Israel and Costa Rica.
The Soft Parades success can be traced in large part to a continuing fascination with the Doors music and with Mr. Morrison. Though Mr. Morrisons band was around for less than a decade and released only six full-length studio albums, those recordings continue to be best sellers on the music charts. Countless books and even a film by director Oliver Stone have continued to fan the flames of Mr. Morrisons celebrity.
While the Soft Parade has studied its real counterparts, no meticulous planning goes into each show, Mr. Russo says.
"I believe things like this you cant really prepare for," he says. "Its not something you can go and learn."
His band members did listen to every Doors recording they could find, though, which gives them a working repertoire of about 60 songs to perform in concert. The real Doors never played a majority of those songs live, Mr. Russo says.
The response so far has been positive, and the band has sold out previous shows at the State Theatre. Some audience members who have heard the original Doors even tell Mr. Russo his band is better.
"Im not saying were better than the Doors," Mr. Russo says, "but the Doors live were very erratic."
Though he tries to get into the spirit of the music, Mr. Russo doesnt duplicate some of the notorious antics that caused Mr. Morrison so much trouble over the years.
Mr. Russo initially thought doing a Doors tribute would be the best way for him to launch his own performing career, but the success of the Soft Parade has kept him from striking out on his own. He recently completed a full-length solo album called "Beautiful Creatures," which stays away from the Doors sound.
Though he might be able to re-create the Doors, Mr. Russo seems to realize that no one can match the bands legend.
"To this day, I dont think theres been a band quite like that," Mr. Russo says. "They were way ahead of their time."

WHAT: The Soft Parade
WHERE: The State Theatre, 220 N. Washington St., Falls Church.
WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday
TICKETS: $12
PHONE: 703/237-0300 for information, 202/432-SEAT for tickets.


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