Some time way back in 2019, we bought tickets to see Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith play a concert as the two remaining members of the Monkees. Scheduled for May 2020, the concert never happened. It was re-scheduled twice and then finally re-scheduled for September 11th. Last night Lorri and I were there.
The show was at the Moore. The Moore is one of my very favorite venues. It’s smallish and relatively intimate. Proof of vaccination and masking were required. The latter was a bit challenging because it seemed quite warm in the theater but we managed. The audience was mostly aging boomers so we felt quite at home, but there were some younger fans as well. The audience was knowledgeable and well-mannered, which is more than I could say for the last couple of shows I attended pre-Covid.
The Monkees were a weird man-made creation. Really never envisioned as a band or musical act, the members were seen as TV stars who would make NBC plenty of money as an American knock-off of the Beatles. Their story was pretty well told in the 2000 movie Daydream Believers. Featured in that movie was the ongoing conflict between the members of the band/TV ensemble who wanted to perform as musicians and write their own stuff at a remarkable time in pop culture history and the network brass who wanted a weirdly entertaining program that would attract a young audience, sell lots of ads and keep ratings high. That conflict was as much a character in the concert as Mickey and Mike.
Mickey is 76 years old and Mike is 78. Neither are young by any measure. Mickey still has that easy high voice, seems sprightly and while I wouldn’t say he jumps, dances or runs around the stage, the man can still perform and sing the songs. Mike underwent a quadruple by-pass in 2018, moves with difficulty and the voice, always a bit swampy, has lost range and strength.
The show was really fascinating in terms of the song choices. You can access the set list here. Aside from “Last Train To Clarksville” the boys did their best to avoid the big Monkees hits in the first half of the show. They went on to share their unhappiness with the way their desire to be treated as serious artists was treated by the network and “Music Surpervisor” Don Kirshner. While they didn’t name Kirshner, and he has the good sense to be dead, dead, dead, it’s clear to anyone who knows a little bit about their story knows who they’re referring to. There were some Monkees songs in that first half, but they aren’t as well known, and they tend to be songs Michael Nesmith wrote. Peter Tork’s “For Pete’s Sake” that closed the show after season one jumps in at number 12. Lorri turned to me during the show and noted they sounded very country. True, and Nesmith had pretty deep country roots. Today I’d call his music Americana.
The second half of the show continued in the same vein, and the audience didn’t seem to be complaining. A couple songs from the movie flop Head led things off, with more Nesmith songs to follow. It wasn’t until song 27 from the set, “Daydream Believer” that the band powered through five well-known popular Monkees tunes to wrap things up. That includes the Monkees.
In my opinion, this was still a solid show. Dolenz and Nesmith have been trying to complete this farewell tour literally for years, and I got the distinct impression they are happy to be wrapping up. They were professional, the show was good, but it wasn’t joyful. I remember having the same feeling when I saw Robin Trower in 2019. I think when performers reach a certain age a certain there is a certain joie de vivre that is missing. It isn’t surprising. Everything is just a tish harder with age.
Favorite moments: The very brief interlude between the end of the second half and the encore which ended with Mike walking out with his guitarist son Christian. The affection between the two was obvious. Mickey supplied with a kettle drum to play “Randy Scouse Git.” The passle of great Mike Nesmith songs, including: “The Door Into Summer,” “You Just May Be The One,” “Papa Gene’s Blues,” and “Sweet Young Things.” Finally, the decision not to cover any lame, overwrought Davy Jones ballads.
Least favorite moments: Anything from Head, and the intro and performance of “While I Cry.” Ick.