Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Michael Nesmith at Troubadour, 1-22-19 Concert Review

Michael Nesmith performing "Some Of Shelly's Blues"
In the early 1970s, Michael Nesmith worked with pedal steel player Red Rhodes on the album And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’. In the back of his mind, Michael had always hoped to one day revisit that sound. And with his current touring partner, Pete Finney (who plays pedal steel on a track of the recent Monkees release, Christmas Party), now he is. At the beginning of last night’s concert at the Troubadour, Michael Nesmith explained that was the genesis of this short west coast tour, which is perhaps a test run for something bigger, more extensive. If so, it was a wildly successful test. At the heart of the show was material from And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and while the tour was named after that 1972 release, this was not one of those concerts where the artist plays the album in order (though he did perform every song from it). Michael Nesmith and Pete Finney played material from other albums from the early 1970s, as well as treating the audience to a few Monkees songs during their absolutely wonderful set.

They took the stage at 8:02 and opened the show with “Two Different Roads,” from And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and it was immediately clear just how good Michael Nesmith’s voice still sounds. With only his acoustic guitar and Pete Finney’s pedal steel accompanying his voice, the focus was mainly on his vocal performance. After just the briefest of pauses, the duo went right into another track from that album, “Tomorrow & Me.” They followed that with “Some Of Shelly’s Blues,” a song that The Monkees did record, but one that didn’t end up on an official Monkees release until Missing Links Volume Two. Michael and Pete delivered a sweet, kind of slow, heartfelt rendition that completely delighted the audience. After that, Michael told the crowd, “I’m so sorry you have to stand up.” The way the Troubadour is set up, it’s general admission, with standing room on the floor, and some seats up in the balcony. By the way, fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz was in attendance at this show, seated up on the special balcony off stage left.

Michael Nesmith also reminded the audience that it’s all right to clap after an instrumental solo, joking that it’s “great to see Pete get the respect I deserve.” He then played “The Keys To The Car,” a song from Magnetic South, introducing it as “in the style of Jimmie Rodgers, 1927.” After Pete’s lead on this one, he got a lot of applause, making Michael smile. (And, actually, every lead by Pete from that moment on received a good amount of applause.) “The Keys To The Car” was followed by a couple of songs from And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ – “Listening” and “The Upside Of Good-Bye.” When he introduced “The Upside Of Good-Bye,” the song got a cheer, surprising Michael. “Really?” he asked. He mentioned that “Most of these songs were part of a quest,” and that “The Upside Of Good-Bye” is one about when it went wrong.

They then gave the audience a gorgeous, sweet rendition of “Papa Gene’s Blues,” a song from the very first Monkees LP (where it was originally misspelled as “Papa Jean’s Blues”). The rendition last night was so good, it seemed the way the song was meant to be played. It was a bit longer than usual too. The line “Play, magic fingers” was directed at Pete. That was followed by “Keep On,” one of my favorite tracks from And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, and one that speaks strongly to me these days. It’s good to hear someone tell us, “You’re doing just fine/Keep on keeping on.” We then got a moving rendition of “Continuing,” a song from Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash. Check out these lines: “So the shock that she felt didn't show/When I told her that I had to go/She just stood there somewhere in between/A smile and an unpleasant scene.” Yeah, Michael Nesmith can really write some excellent lyrics, as he showed again in the following song, “Marie’s Theme,” its opening line being “Her only remark was a closing remark.”

“Joanne” is such a beautiful song, with a wonderful vocal line. Some women in the audience sang along, which clearly delighted Michael, while the story he told in introducing the song delighted the audience. A woman near me was taking photos and video with her phone and after the song told her friend, “I’m so glad I got that.” Michael, hearing her remark, responded, “I’m glad you did too,” which, as you can imagine, totally elated the woman. Michael and Pete then returned to material from And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, playing “Harmony Constant” and following it with “Lady Love” and then “The Candidate.” Michael mentioned that though “The Candidate” was written in 1972, it is rather timely now. “The patience of the people soon will end.” (My patience with the current administration ended even before the inauguration.) That song is certainly another highlight from that album, and the rendition last night was excellent.

In introducing “Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun To Care),” Michael told the audience he tried to get it on The Monkees, but was told it was too country. It did eventually end up on The Monkees’ Missing Links Volume Three. That was followed by another song that showed up on a Monkees compilation, “Nine Times Blue” (this one on the first Missing Links). The lines from “Nine Times Blue” that always stand out for me are “And like a fool I tested you/By demanding things of you which weren't mine.” Michael then went back to And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ for a song that actually was a hit, “Different Drum.” This song was performed by Michael Nesmith in an episode of The Monkees, where it was done in a playful, fast, nervous style. That wasn’t the hit version. The hit version was by the Stone Poneys in 1967. It was warmly received last night, with the audience singing along.

My favorite song from And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ is “Roll With The Flow,” and it was such a treat to get to see Michael Nesmith perform this one, certainly a highlight of the set for me. Michael was clearly having a good time with it, and Pete Finney delivered some excellent work on pedal steel. After that song, Michael announced the next one would be the last song of the evening, eliciting a collective sound of disappointment from the audience. It was a truly special night, and the crowd had no desire for it to end. The song Michael chose to close the performance was “Silver Moon,” a wonderful tune from Loose Salute, and another that the crowd sang along to. (I couldn’t stop singing the chorus as I walked back to my car). Before leaving the stage, Michael told the audience, “That was a gas.” Indeed. The show ended at 9:43 p.m. There was no encore.

Set List
  1. Two Different Roads
  2. Tomorrow & Me
  3. Some Of Shelly’s Blues
  4. The Keys To The Car
  5. Listening
  6. The Upside Of Good-Bye
  7. Papa Gene’s Blues
  8. Keep On
  9. Continuing
  10. Marie’s Theme
  11. Joanne
  12. Harmony Constant
  13. Lady Love
  14. The Candidate
  15. Propinquity (I’ve Just Begun To Care)
  16. Nine Times Blue
  17. Different Drum
  18. Roll With The Flow
  19. Silver Moon 
Here are a few photos from the show:

"Two Different Roads"
"Tomorrow & Me"
"The Keys To The Car"
"The Upside Of Good-Bye"
"The Upside Of Good-Bye"
"Papa Gene's Blues"
"Marie's Theme"
"Propinquity (I've Just Begun To Care)"
"Roll With The Flow"

Troubadour is located at 9081 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood, California.

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