By Brian M. Howle
Rating: ¶¶¶¶¶ 5 Lighters Up
The House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach was packed with the electric anticipation as legions of fans (both old and new) greeted The Monkees – the ‘60s’ favorite television band – when they took to the stage on Thursday, July 5th, 2001.
Following a great opening act featuring boy band du jour Natural (gotta admit, ya can’t go wrong with perfect harmonizing), Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (minus Michael Nesmith, who declined to participate in the tour) looked to enjoy the crowd’s enthusiastic response just as much now as they did back then (See latter part of review).
The boys started out the show looking quite dapper – Davy looked exquisitely English in almost formal black attire, a white shirt and black long coat; Micky sported black leather pants, white shirt and black long coat; and Peter – ever the consummate showman – chose red plaid pants, white shirt, a red long coat, and red patent leather shoes, complemented by his red Stratocaster guitar. The boys are backed by a great eight-piece band, consisting of drums, guitar, bass, two keyboardists (including a lady who also played sax and clarinet), and a three-piece horn section.
As a large, red neon “Monkees” logo glowed from the backdrop, it was almost like stepping into a time machine during the opening signature tune, “Last Train to Clarksville.” 35 years after their debut on television, adult women screamed competitively with the young girls in attendance. At times, it was like being in a cave full of bats and a band at the same time!
Dozens of fans held up original album covers, as Davy warmed the crowd with anecdotes about being on the covers of Tiger Beat and Sixteen magazine. Rotating duties on lead vocals, they performed 27 songs, including “Girl I Knew”; “Auntie Grizelda”; “Can You Dig It” (from their only movie, Head); “Girl” (Davy’s vocals had an Anthony Newly-quality styling on this one, along with a killer horn arrangement); a great cover of the R&B tune “Higher and Higher”, “#8 in Bach” (from “Puff” Bach) featuring Peter’s outstanding harpsichord keyboards, followed by “Roll Over Beethoven” with Peter’s great lead guitar work; “She Hangs Out” (this featured the aforementioned female saxophonist with a killer lead, along with a huge horn section sound); Micky’s full vocals soared on “Since I Fell”; Peter rocked out on Little Richard’s “Lucille” (and his guitar lead prevailed); then a great homage to the Swing/Big Band sound with a great rendition of “Is You Is”; and their recent reunion release “That Was Then (This Is Now)”.
They lit up the crowd for the finales with “Daydream Believer”, as opening act Natural joined them onstage for a great a cappella chorusing. Then they closed out strong with the classic hits “I’m A Believer”, “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”, and “Pleasantville Sunday”, which sent the packed house into a peaked frenzy, pushing to the stage for one last touch of an idol’s hand.
Akin to Vegas floor shows of the ’50s & ‘60s, this was a great concert, above and beyond most folks’ expectations. A made-for-TV concoction produced to cash in on The Beatles’ popularity, The Monkees passed expectations back then, too. They quickly endeared themselves to Americana; right alongside baseball and Apple pie.
And for two hours, life seemed simple again. Not a bad trade for the price of a ticket.
Live Performace Rating Legend:
¶¶¶¶¶ 5 Lighters Up – Dude, Ya had to be there; Killer set
¶¶¶¶ 4 Lighters Up – Great show, you don’t leave feeling there was more they could have done
¶¶¶ 3 Lighters Up – Not necessarily bad; not necessarily good; had its moments and I didn’t feel ripped off
¶¶ 2 Lighters Up – Someone’s got an addiction problem or needs way more practice, but hey, the beer was cold
¶ 1 Lighter Up – I laughed; I cried; I want my money back, bitch
The previous article was originally published July 12, 2001 in Alternatives NewsMagazine