Monday, November 15, 2021

The Monkees at The Greek Theatre, 11-14-21 Concert Review

I am always skeptical when a band announces its final tour, figuring folks often change their minds. Think about The Who or Cher or many others who performed their supposed final shows only to then later go back on the road. Well, last night The Monkees performed the last show of their Farewell Tour here in their hometown of Los Angeles, treating fans to a night of the hits and also some beloved deep cuts. Will it prove to be the final show? Time will tell. Either way, I am glad I was there, for it was both a fun and moving performance, and I finally got a chance to see them play “Love Is Only Sleeping,” a song I’d been requesting for nearly a decade.

The gates opened at 5:30 p.m., and we went through the now-familiar routine of showing our vaccination cards as well as our tickets. But we couldn’t go to our seats until 6 p.m., a move clearly designed to give people the opportunity to purchase drinks and souvenirs. I don’t usually buy concert T-shirts because they’re expensive, but of course I had to have a shirt from this particular concert. After all, it might very well be the last one. It was forty dollars, not too outrageous. My girlfriend bought a glass of wine and a cookie, and at 6 p.m. we made our way to our seats. The day the tickets went on sale, I tried to get seats down front, but every time I chose a pair of seats I would get a message that they’d been sold already. Out of frustration and a worry that I wouldn’t get anything at all, I gave up on the lower section and bought two tickets on the upper level off to the side, in row A. Turns out row A isn’t the first row of that section, and our seats were so far off to the side that most of the stage wasn’t visible from them. We couldn’t see the drum kit at all, and assuming that Micky Dolenz would at least at times be behind the kit, I wasn’t at all happy. Fortunately on the way to the bathroom I ran into a friend who told me it was possible to upgrade to better seats for an extra fifty dollars each. I jumped at that opportunity, and soon my girlfriend and I found ourselves in a section with tables and wait service, and I was in heaven. We shared our box with two other people, Glenda and Jimmy, who were also huge fans of the band, having made the drive from Oregon to be at this show. We were in good company. The staff also proved to be totally friendly, and the food was good. What more could we ask for?

Before the show, Monkees music was playing over the speakers, presumably songs the band wasn’t planning on performing, such as “Looking For The Good Times,” “P.O. Box 9847” and “Apples, Peaches, Bananas And Pears.” But also that alternate version of “Me & Magdalena,” a song I was assuming they’d do. But either way, it was wonderful hearing nothing but Monkees from the moment we got to our seats. At 7:25 p.m., the lights went out, and a minute later the tour’s producer stepped onto the stage to introduce the show. Mike Nesmith was in a white suit, Micky Dolenz in black. They opened the first set with Nesmith’s “Good Clean Fun,” a song from The Monkees Present. The line “I told you I’d come back, and here I am” got a big cheer from the audience, and made it the perfect choice to get the show underway. Mike was on vocals, and Micky was on tambourine and vocals. As it would turn out, the two would stay front and center, with Micky never getting behind the drum kit, and Mike not playing guitar at all. This was the first time I’d seen them where that was the case. They followed “Good Clean Fun” with “Last Train To Clarksville,” with Micky afterward saying, “That was a big one, the one that started it all.”

“The Kind Of Girl I Could Love” followed, and was certainly a treat. That one was from More Of The Monkees, the first record I ever owned. Micky then mentioned his new record, Dolenz Sings Nesmith, and they played “Different Drum,” a song Micky performs on that record, and one that was a hit for Stone Poneys. It is a song that Mike Nesmith wanted to record with The Monkees, but he was told by the producers that it didn’t fit, that it wasn’t a Monkees song. Micky told the story of Nesmith’s reaction: “Wait a minute, I am one of the Monkees.” Micky did the majority of the storytelling at the show, and after “Different Drum,” talked a bit about the early days of the band. They then played “Sunny Girlfriend,” with Micky on maracas, and that led straight into “Mary, Mary.” During “You Just May Be The One,” Mike pointed at people on the word “you,” stressing the word. “Sunny Girlfriend,” “Mary, Mary” and “You Just May Be The One” were all written by Nesmith. Of the four members of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith wrote the most material, and Micky talked about how Nesmith encouraged him to start writing songs. “And I said, ‘Why?’ And he said, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Oh boy, I wish I had listened. But we all did write some songs.” That led to them playing “For Pete’s Sake,” which was written by Peter Tork. They followed that with one written by Micky Dolenz, “Randy Scouse Git,” with Nesmith joking about royal family names during the song’s introduction. For this song, a kettle drum was brought out for Micky to play.

“Love Is Only Sleeping” is a song I have long wanted to see The Monkees perform live. When I started seeing them in concert in the mid-1980s, Mike was not performing with them, so it was highly unlikely they’d do it (as I recall, they did a couple of Nesmith songs without him, including “Listen To The Band”). Then in 2014, when I first saw Mike play with them in New Hampshire, I shouted out a request for the song. But no, they did not play it. Since then, I’ve been requesting it at every show I attended. And last night I finally got a chance to see them do “Love Is Only Sleeping.” It was an unusual version, with a strange, but cool vocal delivery from Mike, almost like spoken word, with different phrasing and pauses. And it worked so well. It was a highlight of the first set. Micky then spoke about the 2016 release Good Times! and introduced ”Birth Of An Accidental Hipster,” one of that album’s coolest tracks. Interestingly, it was the only song from that album that they performed last night. No “Me & Magdalena,” which is the absolute best song from that release, and one they had apparently been playing fairly regularly earlier on the tour. “Birth Of An Accidental Hipster” led straight into “St. Matthew,” another song I love. It felt just a tad slow last night, but was still great to hear. Mike Nesmith left the stage after that one, and Micky sang “As We Go Along,” which is my personal favorite Monkees song. Micky delivered an excellent vocal performance. So sweet, so good. Rather than “And sit with me here by the firelight,” he sang “And sit with me here in the firelight,” and changed “story” to “stories” in “We’ll make up our stories as we go along.” After that song, he called out to Nesmith: “Okay, Nez, come on out!” And as the band began “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” out he came. That song concluded the first set, which ended at 8:16 p.m.

The set break was exactly twenty minutes, and I was glad we got to the bathrooms before the lines started to form, because the first part of the second set was the best section of the entire show. The set opened with a gentle, beautiful, stripped down rendition of “Porpoise Song,” with Micky’s voice supported by keyboards and backing vocals. Micky then left the stage, and Michael Nesmith came out to play “While I Cry,” a wonderful song from Instant Replay. “I want to head off into a little different direction,” he told the audience during the introduction. And this was when Michael Nesmith really connected with the audience, during the introduction as well as the song itself. “I’ll try to do the best I can for the song,” he promised us. And it was a remarkable and moving performance, leaving many of us in tears. Nesmith’s thank you at the end was heartfelt and sincere. Micky returned and they played “Papa Gene’s Blues,” another of the band’s best songs. “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.” There was some excellent work on pedal steel after the “Play, magic fingers” line. This is when it really hit us what a special night this was. Those first three songs of the second set contained that magic that we’re always seeking when we go to live performances.

Micky then mentioned how the band didn’t have all that much control over its direction in the early days. “But finally, with Nez’s encouragement, naturally, we kind of drew a line in the Monkee sand and we kind of put our foot down, our collective foot down,” he said as he introduced “The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” a song written by Nesmith and originally included as the flip side to “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.” And they followed it with “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” which Davy Jones originally sang lead on. Mike left the stage at the beginning of it, and after that song Micky called him back. “Earth calling Nez, Earth calling Nez.” Nesmith came back to introduce “Tapioca Tundra,” recounting a pivotal moment in Monkees history. “It can’t be just part of me, for now it’s part of you,” he said. They delivered an interesting version, beginning softly and then kicking in. That was followed by another of my personal favorites, “Auntie’s Municipal Court.” The first time I saw them play it was in 2018, and it was so good to hear it again. I was ecstatic that it was included in the set list for this tour. This version had a sweet ending. Mike left the stage again, and Micky sang “Goin’ Down,” during which he thanked the tour’s tech team and introduced the band. The band included Alex Jules on keyboard and backing vocals, Probyn Gregory on trumpet and banjo, John Billings on bass, Emeen Zarookian on guitar and backing vocals, Rich Dart on drums, Pete Finney on pedal steel guitar, Wayne Avers on guitar and musical direction, and Coco Dolenz on backing vocals and percussion. (Christian Nesmith and Circe Link left the tour in early October.) “Goin’ Down” led directly into “Sweet Young Thing,” with Mike Nesmith returning to the stage to sing it. That in turn led right into “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” with Mike leaving once again. But he came back right after that for “Daydream Believer,” with Coco Dolenz on the alarm clock. The audience sang along with the entire song, and at the end sang the chorus twice through with Mike and Micky performing a cappella, a warm moment that brought everyone together. Another bit of that magic, don’t you know. Then “Listen To The Band” began rather softly, which was wonderful, and soon kicked in with a great force. They then wrapped up the second set with “I’m A Believer,” and that’s how the night and the tour came to an end. There was no encore. The show ended at 9:30 p.m. If it does prove to the band’s final show, well, it was an excellent one to go out on.

Set List

Set I

  1. Good Clean Fun
  2. Last Train To Clarksville
  3. The Kind Of Girl I Could Love
  4. Different Drum
  5. Sunny Girlfriend >
  6. Mary, Mary
  7. You Just May Be The One
  8. For Pete’s Sake
  9. Randy Scouse Git
  10. Love Is Only Sleeping
  11. Birth Of An Accidental Hipster >
  12. St. Matthew
  13. As We Go Along
  14. Pleasant Valley Sunday

Set II

  1. Porpoise Song
  2. While I Cry
  3. Papa Gene’s Blues
  4. The Girl I Knew Somewhere
  5. A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You
  6. Tapioca Tundra
  7. Auntie’s Municipal Court
  8. Goin’ Down >
  9. Sweet Young Thing >
  10. (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
  11. Daydream Believer
  12. Listen To The Band
  13. I’m A Believer

Here are a few photos from the show:

"The Kind Of Girl I Could Love"

"While I Cry"

"While I Cry"

"Daydream Believer"

"Daydream Believer"

"I'm A Believer"

No comments:

Post a Comment