Mili-mouthing: Local man fronts Doors legends Manzarek-Krieger

news-jimmorrisonmatijevic-live-smMili, right, works the shadows while Manzarek holds the light. PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

RICHMOND–- For just $20, concertgoers got to hear songs of the 1960s rock group whose frontman combined poetry, sex appeal, and self-destruction so powerfully that Oliver Stone made a film called simply The Doors. And now a Charlottesville man has been tapped to step into the leather pants of the late Jim Morrison.

However, Miljenko Matijevic, who maintains his own recording studio on East Market Street, has yet to literally step into any spotlights with the band now called Manzarek-Krieger. Despite his Morrisonesque gryrations and ear-busting intonations, Matijevic performed without direct illumination throughout most of Monday night's greatest hits concert.

To be sure, the new frontman, at 45, is older than Morrison, who never got past 27, but why is Matijevic–- on the job for a week and a day–- confined to the shadows? Is this just an audition? A pre-concert phone call to the band's publicist offered little.

"We're not doing any press right now," says Tom Vitorino of L.A.-based Tom Vitorino Management. Click.

It's not that Matijevic isn't handsome. Although he hasn't yet grown Morrison's curly Alexander the Great hairstyle, he possesses a chiseled face and reveals through an open shirt an impressive stack of workout-toned pecs and abs.

news-jimmorrisonmatijevic-live2-smA rare burst of light illuminates the new frontman, flanked by original Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger PHOTO BY HAWES SPENCER

Still, the overhead lights shine brightest on keyboardist Ray Manzarek, the savvy septugenarian who first enthused over Morrison's poetry on Venice Beach and began assembling this band in 1965 when Matijevic was still in diapers. As the act's name suggests, the other original member is Robby Krieger, the former flamenco guitarist who penned "Light My Fire"–- the biggest hit, Manzarek reminds us, of 1967, the so-called Summer of Love.

Inside the 1,500-capacity National, the crowd appears ample but allegedly smaller than in 2008 when the band, as Riders on the Storm, played here with a different frontman, Brett Scallions of Fuel fame.

"It was packed last time," says a 40-something man sporting a tie-dyed Doors shirt and an ample waistline, "but now you could do cartwheels out here."

Fifty-seven-year-old Linda saunters up to a reporter to reveal that her ticket was a same-day, spur-of-the-moment purchase–- though she had the foresight to tote her original vinyl copy of the band's fifth album, Morrison Hotel. "I'll take $100 for this right now," says Linda, a rare woman in a room where the male-to-female ratio appears much higher than five-to-one.

The crowd at the National, a restored theater of the same vintage and architect as Charlottesville's Jefferson, trends older than the average rock show, though 20- and 30-something men seem to actually outnumber Baby Boomers, the only ones who could have actually seen Mr. Mojo Risin, who died in 1971.

And when it's time to express appreciation, the glow of cigarette lighter flames outnumbers cell phones by, yes, about five-to-one. Meanwhile, the man tapped to carry Jim Morrison from the Age of Aquarius to the Age of iPhones appears to be chewing gum.

Matijevic was born in Zagreb in the former Yugoslavia and raised in the leafy American enclaves of Greenwich, Connecticut and Scarsdale, New York. Twenty years ago, when hair-metal raged, he achieved million-selling success as the frontman of MCA-signed Steelheart. But during a 1992 Denver concert, his on-stage theatrics resulted in a career-altering head injury. Matijevic eventually nursed himself back to the point of providing the vocals to Mark Wahlberg's character in the 2001 film Rock Star. But by then hair-metal had been relegated to Mark Wahlberg movies.

Originally performing as "Michael," Matijevic now uses his birth name, Miljenko, or "Mili" for short. And inside the National, the soundman has inexplicably cranked up Mili's mic to ear-crushing levels, such that it becomes difficult to hear the words, an ironic twist for a band whose original frontman–- despite myriad drunken on-stage antics–- wanted to be remembered as a poet.

With Robby Krieger (unafraid to sport candy-stripe pants at age 64), Manzarek now appears to rule this roost. Right after playing "Strange Days," Manzarek engages in an on-stage scolding of his new singer over which song comes next. The frontman complains that his setlist is hidden backstage. Who says unpredictability died with Jim?

By the time it's over two hours after it started, a sweat-drenched Mili has transformed himself from an unknown soldier into a smiling object of applause. The general admission crowd is quickly ushered outside to make way for a $30 per person autograph session.

"Too cool for school," declares fan Greg Warrick, standing along East Broad Street. "He was a little too full of himself, but that in and of itself isn't a problem."

"Jim's too hard of a singer to cover," says Myles Milner. "You really can't copy his energy."

Neither of these guys looks to be past age 30.

"Morrison was a complex singer," says Marty Free, a Baby Boomer. "This guy was just belting and belting. I think I'd look for another singer."

"I think you're chasing a dream there," responds his friend Scott Fisher. "There's not another Jim Morrison."

And therein lies the problem.

Read more on: jim morrisonthe doors

31 comments

I saw the show in Virginia Beach and absolutely loved what Mili did with his voice and presence. I heard Jim Morrison on the radio the next day and thought 'Wow, Mili really did sound better than Jim.' That is hard to say because we all love Jim but Mili totally rocked the house. Keep it up!!!!!!!!!

Mili was awesome. the old guys needed some juice. And yes the soundman could have used a wee bit of help... but get over yourselves! If it wasn't for the energy of Mili I would think that original doors would have been BORING! Eric Clapton played in the 60's and continues to this day to be innovative. Thank God for Mili.. and if anyone thinks he doesn't have a great voice..well you need a hearing exam

As a long time Doors fan, I loved this show. Ray and Bobby are legends, and great musicians, but lets face it, they don't exactly rock the house by themselves at this point. Mili Matijevic brought the energy up, and sang his heart out!

I must say, I have read your article several times & have decided you obviously have something against Miljenko Matijevic. The title, of this article, alone, is a prime example. His talent speaks volumes.....even in the shadows.

These two guys are two of the greatest musicians of all time!

What more needs to be said? I'd show up to WATCH THEM watch a concert!

Also, I thought Matijivic did A Great Job!!! Anyway true Doors Fans hear Jim no matter what That's why he'll live forever in the hearts of the fans cause when you close your eyes & listen you hear Jim's soul coming through!!!

Maybe all 19 of us should join the band and together we can replace Jim Morrison then.

I've just read all the comments above & it looks like 50/50 in response to the new singers ability? I really didn't get a chance to see The Doors of the 21st century or any other carnation of the past but I can say to the Nay'sayers of the new singer Mili, I watched everyone of those YouTube Videos of all the recent shows & it looked like Mili did a great job! I may seem a little bias in my opinion seeing that I have grown up with the singer but even in his own band( Steelheart) Mili brings a stage presence and a complete form of professionalism that I could not see anyone who witnessed him live with or without the "Doors" knocking him in anyway, shape or form. Get a grip &get the chip off your shoulders, Jim is Dead and Mili is Good 2B Alive!!!! (& yes he always chews gum, so what!)

Only a great show if you weren't sober. As noted above, the poetic lyrics were largely inaudible, due to both the sound management, and vocal ability of the singer. Even the part of the crowd heeding the doors -start the day with a beer advice- were pretty lethargic in their applause, and only mananaged to grow enthusiastic in the last moments of the concert with the above video " light my fire " . Doubt if this singer survives to see another concert with Manzarek at the helm.

I did not attend the Richmond show, but did see Mili and friends in Norfolk and thought the show was Awesome! Mili did a beautiful job balancing all his roles, giving space for Ray and Robbie to shine, sing Jim's songs which he did a pretty damn good job at, the people in my crowd were blown away at how good he sounded. It is the heart and soul Mili puts into his work, it moves people to the core. Without Mili the show would have been boring, Mili was the show in my opinion. Go Mili!

What a great show! Friends of mine who saw two previous guests of Manzarek and Krieger unanimously agreed that Miljenko Matijevik outdid his predecessors. I also think that Manzarek and Krieger are fortunate to have found their new lead singer. I'm not sure how much better a singer can sing the Doors, and one thing, he kept his authenticity, I mean that he didn't try and sing like Morrison, instead he just sang the songs and put his heart into it. One thing, the sound engineers should try and adjust the quality and reduce the volume of the sound.

I heard this show in Boston. Mili is not Jim, but he didn't try to be, and what he does is just great with these songs. He has energy, he moves, he sings with a lot of heart and soul and intensity. He definitely added a lot of energy to the show, which otherwise would have just sounded dated. I mean, as good as Ray and Robbie are, and they are both serious talents, the songs just sound a bit out of style (what is a whiskey bar anyway, and who the hell wants to go to one?) Rock concerts are weird these days anyways--no dancing permitted in the aisles, the guy next to me who lit up a joint didn't pass it, and got thrown out immediately! Mili adds a welcome edge, a freshness! Even if he does work out, which I doubt Jim Morrison did a day in his life!

I saw the show in Richmond and was blown away by how awesome Mili was. Ray and Robby are great musicians but there was no show without Mili. His energy, voice, vitality and charisma made the show. That man can sing! This review was way off base - it really just seemed to cast weird aspersions.

Mili has explosive talent. His raw energy and vocal ability gave the doors the 2010 edge they need. He along with band Rocked the "Doors Off" in Ct. i did not see a single person sitting. If you were not a doors fan you became one after Mili's performance. He is a true artist who can transcend his ability's into whatever music he chooses to perform. I hope he is recognized for the amazing talent as a singer and performer that he so deserves.

It;s fascinating to read the recent review and subsequent comments about The Doors show. Here's what I thought: No one is going to step in and be Jim Morrison. But what I found compelling about the concert is that Matijevik found a way to sing and perform authentically and yet also to dance with the ghost (and the sound) of Morrison. That's the trick - like following a great actor in a role they've put a stamp on - and I thought he nailed it. He's a major league talent, first of all. Secondly, he managed to fulfill my memories/expectations (and those of the crowd around me) yet also to put his own stamp on the songs. Hearing him do that, I have no doubt he could play Broadway in a rock musical, be it Rent, Tommy, JC Superstar or something else. He's got huge charisma, physical energy and a helluva voice. So it's not surprising at all to me why Manzarek and Krieger chose Milijevik as their singer. What's surprising is that your reviewer saw and heard the same show I did.

ââ?¬Å?Nobody's trying to copy Jim Morrison, it's just that you can't help but be like Jim Morrison when you're singing 'Riders on the Storm,' so Morrison is always there with us in spirit. You can see Jim, especially in Mili, you can see Jim in him."-Ray Manzarek

If anyone has a doubt of Mili’s musical abilities I suggest you visit, http://steelheart.com/tour.htm to read accurate reviews on his performances with "the Doors". -That includes you Mr. Spencer.

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Looks like it was a great show. Sound still holds up.

I'n not sure what show this reporter was at,but the singer was awesome,he had a strong powerful voice,he's got one of the greatest rock voice of all time and the people loved him.I saw the shows w/ brett and ian somebody and mili was the best sounding, best performer,and definitely the most energetic. True the soundman had him swimming in effects,which may be why this reporter couldn't understand or distinguish the vocals ,but that was no fault of mili. In my opinion this is the best singer manzerak/kreiger could have gotten, this is the 21 century doors and i think they made a great decision w/ mili

If that was a great show, hate to think what a bad show is like. Guess I should have had more to drink, but even those who did showed little enthusiasm , certainly wasn't a packed house. I wonder if many who heard them last year in Richmond decided to save the 20 bucks and stay home.

Manzarek and Krieger "killed" Morrison.........and this new cover jock continues to throw dirt on his grave.

Urgh, it's all a rather pathetic and tasteless attempt to relive something that shouldn't be resurrected. Why create a newer half-assed version when the recordings and film of the brilliant original still exist? Jim Morrison and the Doors will never perform live again, and neither will the Beatles. Why fake it?

No one can recreate Jim Morrison, so there's no reason to try and there is no reason for fans of The Doors to expect it. I assume these people are not going to record, so the key is enjoying the live experience. From listening to the video clip, I thought the singer was fine (maybe a little too bouncy) and I like the addition of the other guitarist. Ray and Robbie, legends in their own right but still overshadowed by Jim, make sure that the music sounds authentic, if not identical. I would gladly pay to see them play.

Jim Morrison went to what was at the time George Washington High School in northern VA. Impressive. :)

Ray and Robbie, Just had to say I never thought I would get to see one of my very favorite bands ever. We saw you at Ridgefield Playhouse and I was sure blown away how great the show was,you played the songs the way they originally played with a little kick ass here and there, Not many people copy the doors songs cause no one can play them better than you. Thanks for a great show hope I get to see you again. I brought my wife who is a country music fan she was hooting and yelling like me, how good is that! God bless you both and the rest of the band, also J.D. and J.M. Keep on rockin. Jim Impy

I can Cover Morrison!!! I've been told & not just from friends That I am Jim Reincarnated, but we'ed have to see what Ray,or Robby says! I woould Love the opportunity to prove this!!!! Check out some of my poems & songs @ Isaak Whitt on facebook.

I believe Ray Manzarek's comment says it all...Can you feel us now, Mr. Spencer??? "LOL"

I thought this show was great and Mili did a great job. I could also understand the lyrics just fine. It's not his fault you were sober...Jim wouldn't approve either!

Jim Morrison was a lover, not a hater, Hoss. Rock on Mili.

Saw them in new york.
Though Mili is a Morrison soundalike, he hits all the right notes, and the show defers to allow
Robby & Ray to shine. And yes Mili was chewing gum. And least he didn't fall down drunk.
I saw Morrison with the boys at the Fillmore in NY in 68, so I'd know.

Excellently written piece. Very funny! Great work Mr. Spencer.