Peter Tork Dead AT 77: Here Is A Live Review From 2013
(Following the sad news that the great Monkee Peter Tork died today, here is a live review from 2013 that might double as a fond farewell -IL)
About a week before Davy Jones died, I wrote how the man should perform nearly exactly what Peter Tork performed at the 3pm showing Sunday at the Iridium of Peter’s “In This Generation: My Life in the Monkees and so much more!” Struggling with a broken video screen directly behind and so struggling with the timing, Tork performed a career retrospective from the first song he learnt to play on guitar, the African Spiritual “Joshua Fought The Battle Of Jericho” through the first song he recorded “Come On In” , to the first song he wrote “Leaving In The Morning Blues” through Monkee songs he enjoyed including his own “For Pete’s Sake” thru a handful of songs from his second full time band, the long last Shoe Suede Blues. Similar in structure to Peter Asher’s performance at Michael Feinsteins, in between, Tork told anecdotes high lighting his long career.
With just a couple of acoustic guitars and a piano on stage and a malfunctioning video aid (though smaller screens on the side were working), Tork skimmied through the past, highlighting not Tork the man but Tork the musician. Far from being a tell all, Tork kept his attention where it should be: on what informed his music. As a child Tork took lessons on piano and learnt Brahms in a house filled with classical, folk and jazz but not the dreaded rock and roll thing. It took “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You”, which the 71 year old Peter performs with hip swirling relish, for Presley to assume Peter Seeger’s role in his pantheon of heroes and for the musicians way in life to be set.
Tork dropped out of college and reached the Village in time for the folk revival where he played around town and covered stuff like jug band “If I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate”. People kept telling him he had a double in the village and when he finally ran into the doppelganger it was Steven Stills. Tork ran into Stills again in Los Angeles and played piano for Stills band the Buffalo Fish. It was Stills who, turned down by the producers of a TV pilot based on “A Hard Days Night” because his teeth and jaw didn’t film well, gave Tork a heads up on the auditions.
Now we are at the heart of the matetr and Peter performs “Last Train To Clarksville”, “She Hangs Out” the performances finest moment by a long shot, a piano played “Shades Of Gray”, the ending credit of the Monkees show”For Pete’s Sake” and a little later an amusing “Peter Parker Percival’s Pet Pig Porky” (who still p-p-p-p-popped). For Tork the story of the Monkees is the story of a struggle with the TV shows producer Don Kirshner to allow the band members to play on their own albums.
The final third of the show brings you up to date while visiting Tork’s own writing, including the frankly iffy “Easy Rider Theme” played along to the movies opening credits.
It’s a long show for a 71 year old man to lift single handedly, especially with a malfunctioning TV screen. Tork maintains his concentration and his stamina for the full 90 minutes and the show has a sense of pacing and direction. His voice is significantly stronger than I remembered and his musicianship has been central to the Monkees for years. But from a bluesy, disappointing “I’m Going Blind” to a weak original “Ladies Baby”, the songs aren’t as good as theperformance a little too often.
Still, Peter comes across as a little weird and very sweet (kinda same as it ever was) and since we now know he has Asperger’s Syndrome (a mild form of autism), that disconnect has worked well for him for many a long year while now a little sad as well. Tork has also fully recovered from a rare form of throat cancer that has left his voice better than ever. None of this is mentioned in his show.
The hit on Tork is that of the four Monkees he is the least interesting, Davy is the star, Dolenz the singer, Mike the songwriter and Peter…? The bassist… Fair enough, but how bad can it be to be the least interesting Monkee? Not very.