The Monkees |
at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion,
Columbus, OH (24 June 2011)
Back in the early 1960s, every girl was expected to have a crush on either John, Paul, George or Ringo. A few years later, we had to choose again, this time between Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike. I was a Micky girl all along. Too many girls liked Davy, and I was always watching drummers anyway. I remember being jealous when one of my elementary school classmates got three or four different Monkees paint-by-number sets at her 10th birthday party. I had only one. I wish I still had it and my old Tiger Beat and 16 magazines that included revealing articles about Micky and the boys.
Alas, that was long ago. Amazingly enough, it was almost 45 years ago. At least I still have all of the original record albums and still play them on a semi-regular basis. So what if the edges of the cardboard covers are showing a bit of wear?
Like the 20th anniversary reunion tour of 1986, this 45th anniversary tour featured three of the four Monkees: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Mike Nesmith was not to be seen, at least not in person. Still, it was well worth the effort to see the other three together -- even if it meant getting in line more than an hour before the gates opened in order to grab a good piece of grass (i.e., lawn seats). The men would take the stage an hour later.
The performance was a very satisfying and well-planned musical production. It began with projected archival footage of long-forgotten TV commercials the quartet did for Kool Aid, Rice Krispies and Yardley Black Label after shave. Throughout the evening, the screen would show a variety of scenes from The Monkees TV show, the 1968 movie Head and random portraits of Davy, Micky and Peter. The visuals provided an homage to the Monkees themselves and prompted a reminiscence to a very different time for each one of us.
The eight-piece band opened with a montage of familiar song excerpts, just like any introduction to a traditional musical. Then it was time for the theme song and "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees," as the three singers came out on stage to thunderous applause and ovation. For the next 90 minutes they gave us every song we wanted to hear. They each took turns singing lead, they dabbled with a variety of instruments, they danced around a bit and they chatted about what their lives were like back in the day. For the most part, we all stood for the duration of the show and sang our own hearts out. The concert was everything it could and should have been.
Three of my favorites started the evening: "I'm a Believer," "Mary, Mary" and "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)." Davy merrily updated the last one so the girls he addressed in the spoken lyric might end up with each other instead of with him. Already I could tell we were headed for a whole lot of fun. Next came "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," "When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)," "Randy Scouse Git" and the crowd-pleasing sing-along, "Valleri." As he did for much of the night, Peter supplied what were originally Mike's vocals on "Papa Gene's Blues," with the refrain "I have no more than I did before / But now I've got all that I need / For I love you / And I know you love me." The music continued with Micky's "Saturday's Child," and Davy's poignant ballad, "I Wanna Be Free."
All of the performers alternated their duties seamlessly so that the music could proceed without interruption, even while some band personnel and Monkees took brief individual breaks off stage. The next selections were "That Was Then, This is Now," "I Don't Think You Know Me," "All of Your Toys," "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?" (with Peter once again standing in for Mike), "She Hangs Out," "Sometime in the Morning" and "Someday Man."
I don't believe I've ever seen the Monkees' 1968 movie Head, which I understand is a cult favorite. The next portion of the show was dedicated to the movie and its soundtrack, with "Can You Dig It," "As We Go Along," "Do I Have to Do This All Over Again," "The Porpoise Song" and "Daddy's Song." Clips from the film provided a psychedelic backdrop. It was definitely a return trip to the 1960s, in more ways than one.
Peter wrote a tune, Mike named it "For Pete's Sake" and Micky sang it. By its title alone, some folks would not recognize it. But it became familiar to us as the eventual closing song of the TV show, and it was next in the lineup. "In this generation / In this lovin' time / In this generation / We will make the world shine." It was followed by "Cuddly Toy," "Words" and "She." Then Peter got out the French horn to accompany another one of my favorites, "Shades of Gray." "But today there is no day or night / Today there is no dark or light / Today there is no black or white / Only shades of gray." These simple but great lines are still relevant today.
The night marched toward its noticeable conclusion with Micky's lively "Goin' Down," "It's Nice to be With You," "Your Auntie Grizelda," "Last Train to Clarksville" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You." The main portion of the concert ended with two of the Monkees' chart hits and most popular sing-alongs: "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and "Daydream Believer." What a great sound it was when the instruments dropped out and the voices of thousands resounded throughout the neighborhood. "Cheer up, sleepy Jean / Oh, what can it mean / To a daydream believer / And a homecoming queen." The words weren't as thought-provoking as some of the others we heard tonight, but they sure were memorable and easy to shout and sing. And at the end, the Monkees thanked us and walked off the stage.
We certainly couldn't let them leave just yet. When they came back, the men struck up the appropriate "Listen to the Band," in order to help introduce the eight musicians who were supporting them. Then came yet another one of my favorites, "Pleasant Valley Sunday," which still describes the futility of living in cookie-cutter suburbia to a tee. It was capped by a short reprise of "I'm a Believer." As the band played a finale version of the "Hey, Hey" theme song, Peter and Davy and Micky clowned around for a few more minutes, waved profusely to us and then they were gone.
"So, how were they, really?" people have since asked me. Well, quite frankly, the Monkees were pretty darn good, 45 years since their television debut and at ages 66-67. Their voices were tentative at times. With the use of binoculars, you could see more closely how the intervening decades had aged them. Micky wore a hat the entire evening: most often, a classy black fedora. Davy was still the bounciest of the bunch, and he even changed into white tails at one point and sprinted across the platform. Peter was probably the weakest player by comparison. But since he's been busy battling -- and conquering! -- a rare form of cancer in recent years, he's at least got a fairly good alibi. The fact that he was up there at all was nothing short of fabulous. I think we all got our tickets' worth of entertainment. Even my 82-year-old father, who has been a part-time professional musician for more than 60 years, was impressed with the overall presentation, the Monkees' showmanship and the talent of the backup band. He was pleased that I invited him to go along with me to this one.
The small outdoor venue in the middle of a state capital city was crammed full this evening with tireless veteran performers and an energetic fan-filled audience who automatically mouthed lyrics they hadn't thought of in decades. Most of the people in attendance, both on and off the stage, qualified for AARP membership. Sure, in its day, the Monkees' music was categorized as "pop" and "manufactured." But some selections were serious slices of 1960s life that still resonate with us in the 21st century. What else would you expect from such esteemed composers as Neil Diamond, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Harry Nilsson and Carole Bayer Sager? Add to that foundation the vibrant personality and yes, the musicianship, of four good-looking young men, and it was a recipe for success back then.
Columbus is used to hosting far more monstrous crowds than this one whenever the Buckeyes' football season comes around in the fall. But on this beautiful starry night in June, as we swayed and sang along with the songs of our past, everyone was a winner.
by Corinne H. Smith