Magical Mystery Doors ride wave of ’22 success back to Ocean Casino-Resort Atlantic City
Among last year’s show-business offerings at the region’s casinos, there can be little debate that the nicest surprise of all was the Ocean Casino-Resort residency by Magical Mystery Doors. The tribute-band-with-a twist not only drew thousands to their Sunday matinee performances at Ovation Hall, but it was cited by USA Today as the best gaming-hall attraction of 2022 (the list included several Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soliel programs as well as country titans Keith Urban and Shania Twain).
So, how does MMD, which focuses on the music of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Doors, follow up its wildly successful, two-month-long Summer, 2022 residency at Ocean? How else, but with a three-month, every-Sunday-afternoon run that commences this weekend at the Boardwalk’s easternmost pleasure dome.
For those unfamiliar with MMD, which is guided by multi-instrumentalist/musical director Jeff Tomrell, the act is indeed a “tribute band,” as it pays homage to the three classic-rock titans. But the phrase is woefully inadequate as a description of the quintet’s unique approach.
The standard tribute band offers painstaking recreations of the songs in its repertoire. But MMD rips up that blueprint. While the band keys on faithful renditions of some of the most-revered songs of the past 60 years (from The Beatles’ “She Loves You” to The Doors’ “Riders On the Storm” to Led Zep’s “Kashmir”), it also features a series of wildly entertaining “mash-ups” in which two seemingly disparate numbers are combined to create one-of-a-kind sonic experiences.
For instance, as the band plays the Fab Four’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” lead singer Vinny DeRenzis serves up the lyrics to Zeppelin’s beloved “Stairway to Heaven.”
Another offering has the lyrics to The Doors’ “Break On Through (To the Other Side)” delivered atop the riff-driven Zeppelin track, “Misty Mountain Hop.”
These somewhat irreverent, but highly enjoyable, segments create unexpected, and indelible, moments for audience members, and definitely set MMD light-years apart from the typical tribute-band practitioners.
However, the mash-ups are but one ingredient in the band’s winning formula. There is also the impressive versatility of the five members, all of whom boast proficiency on multiple instruments (four of the five even take a turn on the drums during the band’s rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Four Sticks”). And the musicians’ electrifying, high-energy stage presence creates an exciting atmosphere for the audience.
Tomrell formed the band in 2018 after booking agent Paul Mullay came to him with the basic idea. “We’d worked on creative ideas together for years, and he said, ‘Jeff, I have this idea, and you’re the only person I know who can put it together. It’s the combination of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Doors,” offered Tomrell during an interview at the group’s rehearsal facility in a Reading, Pa.-area industrial complex.
While the pairing of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin seemed logical as they are both British, and each significantly changed popular music in different ways, Tomrell admitted he initially failed to grasp the Doors element, as the Los Angeles-based band of the late 1960s and early-1970s didn’t immediately seem to be a stylistic fit. But as it happened, including The Doors was more a marriage of convenience than a function of artistic imperative: The unit’s first lead singer had a baritone voice similar to that of The Doors’ legendary lead singer, Jim Morrison.
Once he had a band, Tomrell took a deep dive into the three groups’ bodies of work in order to create a repertoire. That, in turn, led to MMD’s sonic calling card.
“I was listening, listening, listening,” he recalled, “and I started to recognize similar chord patterns. For example, a lot of times with Zeppelin, they’ll play a riff that just kind of stays on the same root note. And that got me thinking about what I could lay on top of those notes.
“The first one I had was an easy one: I was listening to ‘Fool In the Rain’ by Led Zeppelin, and I recognized that it’s based on the same three chords of [The Beatles’] ‘Twist and Shout.’ From there, it was just a matter of finding other songs that fit together.”
According to lead vocalist DeRenzis, the mash-up concept isn’t without its challenges. He jokingly likens simultaneously singing one song and playing another on guitar to “rubbing my chest while patting my stomach.” And then there’s the occasional mix-up between singing and playing.
“I play the harmonica on [The Doors’] ‘Roadhouse Blues,’ and it’s back and forth,” he noted. “I’ll sing the line then do the harmonica part. At least three or four times at Ocean last year, I blew into the microphone or sung into the harmonica!”
But for DeRenzis and his teammates, those few-and-far-between gaffes hardly diminish what MMD has achieved to this point.
“It has been,” he stated emphatically, “the most amazing experience. I would say it for all of us, but definitely for me.”
For tickets, click here.
Back to the future at Hard Rock
Break out the headbands and Spandex!
When it comes to fun shows this summer, the “I Want My ‘80s” extravaganza at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City will be hard to top.
The Aug. 12 MTV-a-thon is headlined by erstwhile soap-opera heartthrob Rick Springfield ("Jessie's Girl") and also includes Philly’s The Hooters (“And We Danced” “Day By Day”), Paul Young (“Every Time You Go Away”) and Tommy Tutone (“867-5309/Jenny”).
For tickets, click here.