The Monkees

MESA – Monkees concerts have been intergenerational affairs for some time now. Friday’s performance at the Mesa Arts Center was no exception.

Sitting in the top row of the balcony, for example, was a mom and dad, and their two daughters, ages 17 and 21. All clearly enjoying a healthy two-hour dose of Monkeemania.

“This was awesome,” the 17-year-old said of the show. Asked what it was about the Monkees that appealed to her, she responded, “Their music is so different from what we have to listen to. It’s more fun! We love it.”

The girls explained that, like the older ticket buyers in attendance, they, too, discovered The Monkees through the TV show. In particular, through a box set of DVDs owned by their parents.

“And, we listen to the original records,” the smiling 17-year-old said proudly. “And we play them on a real turntable!”

Whether they were 17 or 57, 7 or 67, the near-capacity crowd embraced what was titled “A Midsummer’s Night with The Monkees,” a full-blown audiovisual experience with vintage TV clips, commercials and outtakes providing the backdrop for Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith to deliver what the near-capacity crowd came to hear.

Despite the passing of Davy Jones in 2012, the three surviving Monkees showed they could still provide a crowd-pleasing experience. The trio now ranges in age from 68 (Dolenz) to 71 (Tork), but still perform with their old energy and enthusiasm.

Jones, a genuine teen idol back in the day, was never mentioned by name, but was featured prominently in the montage of video clips before and during the concert. And, since Mickey sang lead on the majority of their radio hits, and lead vocals were always spread amongst the four, working around Davy’s vocal solos wasn’t as difficult as one would expect.

The fast-paced show kicked off at 8:07 p.m. with their first hit, “Last Train To Clarksville,” and never let up.

A genuine highlight of the evening was the participation of Mike Nesmith, who, in the last three decades or so, has rarely toured. In white jacket and silver boots, Nez sang 11 of his Monkees songs, starting with “Papa Gene’s Blues,” and played flawlessly on the 12-string guitar, much to the delight of hardcore fans who wondered if they would ever hear him perform live again.

Since there was no shortage of his songs during the Monkees years, Nesmith didn’t sing any of his solo hits like “Joanne” or “Silver Moon.” Remember, these are fans who have at least the first two albums memorized down to the last note and were primarily in attendance for the 32 Monkees songs on the set list anyway.

And Nez didn’t disappoint, performing tracks like “You Told Me,” “The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” “Sunny Girlfriend,” “Sweet Young Thing,” and a pleasant surprise like “Tapioca Tundra,” the B-side to their 1968 hit, “Valleri.”

Peter’s multi-instrumental talents shined throughout the night, as he moved from five-string bass to guitar to keyboards with ease. “Your Auntie Grizelda,” a longtime fan favorite from More Of The Monkees, still provides Tork with an entertaining vocal vehicle. In remission from throat cancer treatment, Tork’s voice is in a slightly higher register now compared to his natural alto, but he’s still able to sing well enough to contribute, especially when performing the counterpoint vocal on a dual lead with Mickey on “Words.”

A born showman, Mickey excels as a front man and emcee, whether it’s belting out their popular album track “She,” informing the younger audience members prior to “I’m A Believer” that “we sang this way before Shrek,” pounding away on the tympanis for “Randy Scouse Git” or firing up the audience with his James Brown-influenced workout, “Goin’ Down.”  Dolenz also played the drums when he wasn’t strumming a rhythm guitar, mostly on a segment that featured songs from their third album, Headquarters.

A five-song block from the Head soundtrack included Mickey on the movie’s theme, “Porpoise Song” (co-written by Carole King), Nesmith’s popular “Circle Sky,” and Peter singing his composition “Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again.” Whether or not this helped sell the special Head box sets available at the merchandise table for $70 a pop is hard to say. Tour t-shirts and booklets were moving briskly, though.

Toward the end of the show, Mickey noted that there was no way they could exclude “Daydream Believer” – Davy Jones’ most memorable lead vocal – from the set list. “We all talked about who should sing it, and we decided that this song belongs to you, the fans.” Without hesitation, Dolenz invited a young lady, appropriately attired in proper ‘60s mini-skirt and go-go boots, to do the honors.

“You’ve been singing along to all of the songs all night, so you’re getting another chance,” Mickey told her.

It was difficult to discern if, for this lucky lady, this was an alcohol-related incident or simply the stark realization of being on stage with her heroes. It’s a good bet that she can hit those notes flawlessly in the privacy of her own home. We’ll never know.

At 9:52, Nesmith closed the show with “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round” from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd., and opened the obligatory encore with his “Listen To The Band.” Peter then replicated his album introduction of “Peter Percival Patterson’s Pet Pig Porky” that segues into their classic “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a powerful conclusion to a fine evening of entertainment that was far from warmed-over nostalgia.

Instead, it was another shining example of why the Prefab Four’s exclusion from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame remains an ongoing mystery.

After all, considering that the band was essentially put together by a television casting company for a proposed situation comedy, the Monkees have amazing staying power, as evidenced by the teenagers, sub-teens and 20-somethings singing and dancing in the aisles along with their parents and grandparents.

As the Monkees left the stage to a rousing standing ovation, a smiling Nesmith stopped, looked at the appreciative crowd, waved and said simply, “Thank you so much!” clearly enjoying the moment and perhaps wondering why he didn’t rejoin his old bandmates for these tours a lot sooner.

Was Davy missed? He certainly was, especially around the 9:25 p.m. mark.

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(1) comment

MA Wilson

This is an interesting article, I like the angle regarding people of all ages. One thing though, Micky does not spell his name with an "e".

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