As a child of the 60s there were 3 TV shows that I would drop everything to see: Dark Shadows, Batman and The Monkees. Today I look back at those shows and see just how campy they were, but at the time, I thought they were great. The Monkees as I remember, were an attempt to create a “Beatles” like American TV band. The band was created in 1965 to make a pilot TV program. With the success of the pilot, NBC ran The Monkees TV show for 2 seasons in 1966 and 1967, for a total of 58 shows. Originally The Monkees did little more than the vocals for the music, but after a while, the band decided that they would take over control and they wrote a lot of their songs and did all of the performance. The band was made up of Michael Nesmith on guitar, Peter Tork on bass, Davy Jones on vocals and Micky Dolenz on drums. In the late 60s the band broke up, but over the years they have at time gotten back together and performed. With the passing of Davy Jones in 2012, we will never be able to see The Monkees as the full band, but the remaining members still perform and create new music to adoring fans.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Monkees band and TV show. Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz have put together a 40 plus North American city tour in celebration of this landmark. As Peter Tork said, “Think if we celebrated the 50th anniversary of some band back when we started, it would have been a band and music from 1916.” Music and bands have come a long way since the 1960s, but in a lot of ways Rock and Roll music from then is still as strong and timely today as it was then. A lot of today’s bands cover songs written in the 60s and some even make them bigger hits. People say that good music is timeless and I believe that The Monkees and the music they did and created is and will be part of that.
The Monkees brought their 50th anniversary show to the Mesa Arizona Arts Center on Thursday night September 15th. Prior to the show, we got word that Peter Tork had a family emergency and would not be able to attend the show. The band’s management team was able to get Michael Nesmith to join the band while Peter was gone.
The show started with both Micky and Michael out front, both playing guitars. Micky did most of the lead vocals with Michael helping out on lead vocals on a few songs. Both Micky’s and Michael’s voices were strong and clear. The other members of the band, including two backup singers provided additional harmonizing vocals.
Just like in the TV series, Michael was the steadfast musician while Micky was more of the showman.
Michael played his famous 12-string Gretsch guitar for most of the show. The one thing I did think was interesting, Michael was very well dress, but he also wore sparkly silver shoes. From time to time, Michael would leave the stage for a song or two. On a number of songs, Michael took over the lead vocal responsibility, including Circle Sky and You Just May Be The One. Near the end of the show, Michael came out on stage and did a solo version of Tapioca Tundra.
Micky shared duty between his drum set and out front singing. When Micky was out front singing, he would roam around on the stage singing to the audience. At one point he did a James Brown style move where he did a spin and caught the mic stand as it was dropping. During Goin’ Down, Micky pointed his mic at a woman in the front row and allowed her to sing part of the song. During Randy Scouse Git, Micky put on his famous Mexican poncho (actually a table cloth with a hole in the middle) and played the kettle drum while singing. BTW, you can buy a copy of the poncho at the bands merchandise table.
The show was made up of 2 sets with a small intermission. It was really nice to see both Michael and Micky on the stage together again. Behind the band was a large screen which they played clips from the TV shows and movie. At one point, they displayed The Monkees trading cards spelling out different words of the current song. They also played different commercials that the band did include Kellogg’s Rice Krispies. To end the show Micky said that they were going to use the “Way Back” machine for the last song. Then to the audience’s applause and glee, the screen played a video and the auditorium filled with Davy Jones voice as he sang Daydream Believer. As the song commenced, the band slowly sang along but did not overpower the video or Davy’s beautiful voice. Everyone was on their feet dancing and singing along. When the video completed, the fans cheered, clapped and some even had tears in their eyes. For an encore, the band came back with two of their biggest hits, Pleasant Valley Sunday and I’m a Believer.
Having been a fan of The Monkees as a kid, I can say that I really enjoyed the concert and would recommend it to everyone.
Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Danny Zelisko Presents
Venue: Mesa Arts Center
Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2016
The Monkees Set 1 List: (Album)
Last Train To Clarksville (The Monkees)
Papa Gene’s Blues (The Monkees)
She Makes Me Laugh (Good Times)
The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Headquarters)
Saturday’s Child (The Monkees)
She (More of the Monkees)
A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You (The Monkees Greatest Hits)
Sometime in the Morning (More of the Monkees)
Me & Magdelena (Good Times)
For Pete’s Sake (Headquarters)
Randy Scouse Git (Headquarters)
You Bring The Summer (Good Times)
Listen To The Band (The Monkees Present)
What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.)
Set 2 List:
Mary, Mary (More of the Monkees)
Circle Sky (Head)
Porpoise Song (Head)
Sunny Girlfriend (Headquarters)
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone (More of the Monkees)
You Just May Be The One (Head)
You Told Me (Headquarters)
Birth of an Accidental Hipster (Good TImes)
Goin’ Down (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.)
D.W.Washburn (The Coasters cover)
Tapioca Tundra (The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees)
Daydream Believer (The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees, John Stewart cover)
Pleasant Valley Sunday (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., Carole King cover)
I’m A Believer (More of the Monkees, Neil Diamond cover)