Photos by Henry Diltz
At the ripe age of twenty-four, I fully expected to be the youngest person at the Monkees concert this past Wednesday and I would’ve gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for a tiny girl moppet who adorably handed notes to Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz during the encore. While the median age still probably skewed to mid-sixties (on stage as well), there’s no doubt that the participating Monkees and Dolenz (Davy Jones passed away in 2012 and Michael Nesmith declined to take part in this tour) put on an amazing show.
Nesmith, my favorite Monkee, may have been physically absent, he charmingly Skype’d in for a performance of his classic “Papa Gene’s Blues,” which actually went over pretty smoothly. As the Monkee who fought hardest for the band’s writing their songs and playing their own instruments, his presence was felt throughout the set as the tight backing band played many of his classics like “The Girl That I Knew Somewhere” and “Mary, Mary.”
The night had surprise guests as well, like the producer of their truly great new album, Good Times, Adam Schlesinger (of Fountains of Wayne and That Thing You Do fame), who joined for a couple tunes, and Vance Brescia, who penned the band’s mid-’80s comeback single “That Was Then, This Is Now,” and who played guitar the whole night, grinning from ear to ear. The 31-(!) song setlist was filled with all the hits you wanted, and killer deep cuts like underrated single “Steam Engine,” a Tork-led cover of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” plus the seriously rad Rivers Cuomo-written new single “She Makes Me Laugh.” While the band’s onstage cheesy jokes have not changed since I saw them in 2012 (and they were already stale then), it’s always a joy to see these cornballs having a blast together, playing some of the best songs of the era.