The Monkees At The Town hall, Thursday, June 1st, 2016, Reviewed
Given the circumstances, last night at the Town Hall Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork rebooted the Monkees franchise with an excellent two hour plus, 31 song, retrospective that hit all the high spots and none of the low, and including new songs from the highly estimated in some quarters new album Good Times. Mickey is 71, Pete is 74 years, and they did the work of four men, and then some.
Broken into two sets, with a new song per set, a Davy song per set, a Mike Nesmith per set, and mostly differentiated by a trio of Head freak out psychedelia tracks to open the second, the duo fronted a first rate team of session pros with an especially clever lead guitarist who handled all the solos with aplomb. Joining the Monkees for “I Was There (And I’m Told I Had A Good Time)” and a vital “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” was Good Times producer Fountains Of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger on keyboards. Also making an appearance was Vance Brescia of The Mosquitos on his “That Was Then, This Is Now” . Mike Nesmith showed up via Skype for “Papa Jean’s Blues” and Davy on a recording for “Shades Of Grey” and video for a penultimate “Daydream Believer”. Peter covered Mike’s “What Am I Doing Hanging Round”. And Peter and Mickey traded vocals on Davy’s “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”.
If this all sounds a little bit “The Monkee’s Experience “ as opposed to the real thing, you are right but not entirely. The difference is one of attack, with three or four Monkees on stage, the last couple of decades, the boys took it as an opportunity to regurgitate the story… which we all know very well by now. Last night, the band jettisoned their history to a degree. Yes, there was clips from the TV show running throughout the gig, but the band themselves streamlined the set and let the songs speak for themselves. Tork and Dolenz shared the spotlight and while they were selling nostalgia, they weren’t just selling nostalgia. The band was tight, they really did rock, and both Monkees gave concentrated energetic and spot on performance. The last time I saw Dolenz, solo, his voice took forever to warm up, here he went falsetto during “Going Down” and sounded completely like Dolenz all the rest of the time. The man is a major entertainer, always has been, and last night he was entertaining in a rock and roll vein. While not appreciably better than any other time I’ve seen him, he worked Tork as a perfect foil and gave an easy going but professional show.
Tork was a surprise. I saw him solo at the Iridium a couple of years ago, and he seemed a little… disjointed. Peter has Aspergers Syndrome, and it is why he always appeared a little goofy during the TV show and why solo he seemed, for all his gifts, not quite perfect. But with Mickey last night, whatever questions we might have were answered. I’ve never seen him better, I don’t mean musically, the man has always been a fine musician, but as a live performer: he big upped an “Auntie Grizalda” with a just as good if not better “For Pete’s Sake”, added back up to “Papa John’s Blue” before doing well by “What Am I Doing Hanging Round”. It is not that Pete was better than Mickey, it was that he was as good as Mickey.
Yes, given the circumstances, the Monkees danced through 31 songs with finesse and intelligence, performed them well, covered for their missing friends, and left the audience absolutely with their money’s worth. Yes, the Monkees experience, but nah, more like a real Monkees experience.