I want to preface this review with the reason I wrote it in the first place. I was lucky enough to see The Monkees 45th Anniversary Tour, which met with overall rave reviews. However, no review I read came close to matching the actual experience I had. So I decided to write my own review from the point-of-view of someone for whom this concert was tailored: the die-hard fan. Enjoy…
Columbus Discovers The Monkee World: A Completely Biased Review of the 45th Anniversary Tour
The 420 miles I drove from St. Louis, Missouri to Columbus, Ohio were the best miles I have ever traveled. In this case, it was completely about the destination, not the journey. As I was preparing for my weekend away and people would ask where I was “vacationing,” they always looked puzzled when my answer was Columbus, Ohio. What in the heck is in Columbus? they would question. The Monkees, my answer. Some would start in with that thing we fans always hate…you know it…You’re going to see the The Monkees in CONCERT? You know they don’t play their own…Stop right there. You want to go down this road? Because if you do, you better be damn sure you are ready for the thunder I am about to bring down on you. I will school you on the Monkees from now until Pleasant Valley Sunday, so why don’t you just tell me to have a nice time and be on your way. Thus began my road trip to the greatest night ever on June 24, 2011.
Some may think 420 miles is a long way to go for a concert. And it kind of is, unless you are an über fan and the band that you live and breathe has, by what was surely an accidental oversight, left your hometown (or any nearby) off their tour schedule. I knew I could not miss this tour, and my husband, who I am so not worthy of, knew how important it was to me. So he kindly offered to be my road trip buddy and gave his blessing for me to splurge on one VIP ticket so I could realize a dream that hatched at the age of nine to meet Micky Dolenz (I had already been lucky enough to meet both Davy Jones and Peter Tork throughout the years). So I went solo to the concert at the Lifestyle Communities Pavilion; my hubby went to see a Columbus Clippers minor league baseball game across the street. It could not have been more perfect.
Wait, yes it could. Did I mention I was able to score front row center seats? I still cannot believe that actually happened. Seriously, stuff like that just does not happen to me. I am not one of those people with good concert karma. That all changed. This concert was epic on all levels. The moment The Monkees touched down on the stage and launched into “I’m a Believer,” all those little butterflies of anticipation transformed into jet-fueled exhilaration. I was in for the show of my life. The band was jammin’, the vocals were rockin’, and the guys, well…they proved age is just a number.
Davy still has the face of an idol and the nimble toes of a Broadway performer. He looked quite dapper in his white and black tuxedo, deftly mirroring the “Daddy’s Song” choreography of his 1960’s mini-me on the projection screen behind him. Being so close to the stage, I did see a split second moment of exhausted strain in his face during the routine. But before I could say, “That song was pretty white,” he flashed a brilliant smile and finished with a flourish. And ladies, the man can still serenade the Monkee boots off a go-go dancer. He has an amazing amount of charm, and he knows how to use it…along with those sassy red maracas.
Peter was a musical magician as always. Rockin’ the guitar, the banjo, the keyboards, the tambourine, and even the French horn (did I miss any?), sweety Pete proved he is the master of all things musical. I am sure that had the moment been deemed appropriate, he would have played both the Nose and the Pig with grace and flair. He also successfully pulled off a pair skin tight, full-out-rock-star lace-up pants that even Lady Gaga could not have worn better. The man just makes you want to smile, as do his fabulous musical compositions, which were delightfully well represented.
Now I know it is probably not kosher for a reviewer to play favorites. But as stated in the title, this is a completely biased review, so I make no bones about stating that Micky was perfection. In my eyes anyway. After all, he was the first man I was going to marry, and I have the piles of notebooks and trapper keepers covered with the name “Mrs. Kelly Dolenz” to prove it. But in all honesty, I am fairly certain he hit every single note with accuracy, and he brings this infectious energy to his live performances that just cannot be captured on an engineered studio recording. Not only that, but every time he got behind his drums, I just got this feeling that all was right in the world. He rocked it in every sense of the word, along with about five or six different hats (I lost count by the end). I am not sure if he was just excited to show off his divine taste in noggin wear, or if there is some plan in the works to auction off those puppies as genuine Dolenz Fedoras complete with 45thAnniversary Tour sweat (as suggested by my front row center neighbor, Ricky). If the latter is true, I have dibs on the green and black plaid one. Or just an f.y.i., Micky: my birthday is August 16 (wink, wink).
There was someone obviously missing from that electric stage, and we Monkeephiles know who that was. Papa Nez, better known as Mike Nesmith. It of course would have been mind-blowing had he decided to join the other three. I am sure I would have been so excited I would have peed my pants just a little (I’m being brutally honest here. To quote Adam Sandler in Billy Madison, “You’re not cool ‘less you pee your pants.” I don’t know if that quote just showed my age or my maturity level…either way, I am comfortable with both). But I get it. Touring is not Mike’s bag. I harbor absolutely no ill will toward him for that. I hope by the time I am 68 years old, I would have earned the right to do whatever the heck I want without getting grief about it. With that said, it also makes me appreciate the fact that Peter, Davy, and Micky understand the fans’ need to see them as the incarnation we fell in love with, and that they subject themselves to grueling tour schedules to give us what we want. Still, Nez’s presence is always missed, but never forgotten. And the guys honored him well by performing some of his greatest songs.
Not only were the guys at the top of their game, but so was the set list. Of course there were all the big hits, but the fans were finally treated to a lot of lesser known but just as loved gems that we never thought we would ever have the privilege to hear performed live. “Saturday’s Child.” “I Don’t Think You Know Me.” “All of Your Toys.” “She Hangs Out.” “Someday Man.” I mean, seriously? Are they trying to make me the happiest chick on the planet? Then they go and pretty much perform the entire Head soundtrack. Well slap me silly and call me Mr. Schneider. It was like Christmas morning for my ears. (Although I was sad that “Circle Sky” was left out for some strange reason. It is my one of only two beefs with the concert, along with omitting “No Time,” which all but pleads to be performed in a live setting.). I have never felt the urge to belly dance more strongly than when they psychadeliced their way through “Can You Dig It?” I have no idea what 5/4 time is, but Micky sure knew how to keep it as he belted out “As We Go Along,” even if he did slip back into Aida mode, brining a bit of operatic flair to the piece. “Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?”…yes, Peter. You do. And again please. Because you rocked it. Davy fell into the aforementioned “Daddy’s Song” like it was a pair of comfy old sneakers. And the electricity of the instrumentation of “Porpoise Song” was enough to power a small city. Heck, let’s get carried away here: a big city. But wait, it gets better than Head: Micky, Davy, and Peter standing side by side, voices melting together in a moving rendition of “Shades of Gray.” I bet you would be hard pressed to find a heart in that pavilion that was not warmed by the experience.
At first, I thought my personal favorite was “Sometime in the Morning,” since the song just makes me weak in the knees, but that changed in the latter half of show when the ultimate highlight for me became crystal clear. Even though it is a tried and true, performed-at-every-show-since-the-beginning-of-Monkee-time song, I was completely blown away by the performance of “I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone”…for a couple of reasons. First off, the song simply (for lack of a better term) kicks ass. It is a nearly perfect rock’n’pop composition, especially when performed live. That driving, tribal beat. That wailing, sinewy guitar. Those hushed, angry (but oh, how I love you angry) vocals. If we in the audience had not already been on our feet, this song would have pulled our backsides off our chairs. The guys were radiating energy, and we were soaking it up like electromagnets. Dare I say there was even some head-banging going on? But this is where it gets even better…for me anyway. As Micky walked back and forth across the length of the stage, he slowed and stopped dead in front of me. Then it happened. He singled me out, reached out his hand, and started in on the second verse. Wait. What? Oh, my God…is he singing to me? Am I still 13 years old in my bedroom blaring my Monkees records on my Fischer-Price record player, gazing at my Micky poster, and imaging that he is serenading me…or is this really happening? Holy Texas Prairie Chickens! At that moment, all good judgment and decorum exited my body, and for some inexplicable reason I started jumping up and down and blowing him kisses. I must have looked something like a moron. No, I looked exactly like a moron. But when that lovable soulful crooner is looking you right in the eyes with a smirk on his face, beaconing you with his hands, singing a song with such primal magnitude…well, ladies and gentlemen, sanity be damned. This is the stuff of dreams. And that was a twenty-five year old dream that came true for me.
In addition to the performers and the set list, there is one more aspect of a Monkees concert that reviewers tend to ignore. The fans. Being around other Monkee fans is also a big part of the experience, and the Columbus fans did not disappoint. Despite going to the concert solo, I was not worried that I would be alone because Monkee fans are the friendliest fans you will find. And I made friends. And we had fun. The crowd at the LC Pavilion jumped to their feet the moment the guys hit the stage and never looked back. We were up and dancing the entire time. For the most part, we played by the rules with our grooving and “hysteria.” Although I noticed the bouncers keeping an edgy eye on a “rowdy” group of tambourine-wielding ladies, quickly putting their bouncer training into action when one of gals charged the stage to toss an inflatable monkey to the trio (which gave Micky, Davy and Peter a chuckle. They appropriately named the monkey Mike). I am sure those bouncers were trying to one-up each other with their battle stories about “those wild Monkee fans” after the concert.
The Monkees finished up the show with some of their greatest hits (“Last Train to Clarksville,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” the already-crowned champion “Steppin’ Stone,” and the feel-good sing along “Daydream Believer”), followed by a three-song encore of “Listen to the Band,” Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and a reprise of “I’m a Believer,” that left us all wanting another encore. It simply could not have been better. If I had to sum it up (which is obvious from this lengthy review that I am not that successful at brief summarizations), I would have to say this: If there has ever been anything that The Monkees have done to truly show their fans how much they love us, it was this concert. They did not just slap together a few songs they could play in their sleep. They gave their honest to goodness fans the songs they wanted to hear, and they performed them with all the might and talent they had (along with the amazing talents of their backing band). And they did not just perform songs. They put on a SHOW…a multimedia, dance-around-the-stage, tell-a-few-jokes, well thought-out and executed show. It was like a two-hour love song just for us. And I think I can speak for the multitudes of Monkee fans out there when I say:
Micky, Peter, and Davy…we love you too. Thank you.
(The fun continued AFTER the show as well. Check out my piece “Meet a Monkee, Greet a Monkee, Makes Me Happy to See a Monkee.”