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Concert Reviews:
Still Monkee-ing around, 45 years later

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, June 24, 2011

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DETROIT -- "Are there some Monkees fans out there?" Davy Jones queried a nearly sold-out Fox Theatre on Thursday night (June 23).

As if he had to ask.

An abundance of Monkee maniacs, overwhelmingly boomer-age adults and mostly female, turned out for a night of unabashed nostalgia to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the TV-formed group that was once slammed as the Pre-Fab Four but has withstood the test of time to become a well-loved part of the pop culture past. Credit that to the material, of course -- songs by august composers such as Carole King, Paul Williams and Neil Diamond that have become so entrenched the Fox crowd was singing along to nearly every word from the opening "I'm a Believer" to the closing...well, reprise of "I'm a Believer."

In fact, the fans were so loud they often drowned out Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, whose vocals were under-mixed throughout the show (fourth Monkee Mike Nesmith is, as usual, sitting out the tour but has given his blessing to the other three). Few of the fans seemed to mind, however; they were there to sing -- and to scream a little for the onetime teenybop heroes who appeared fit and friendly with each other, which has not always been the case in the past.

The three Monkees were happy to feed the memories, too, offering short stories of their past exploits -- Dolenz talked about meeting the Beatles, Tork spoke of fighting for some degree of creative control over the music -- and showing plenty of footage from the show, including outtakes, on a video screen at the rear of the stage. They even preceded their performance with Kool Aid and Rice Krispies commercials the group had filmed during the mid-60s.

Most striking, however, was the setlist. There were, of course, plenty of hits -- "Last Train to Clarksville," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone," "She," "Listen to the Band," "Daydream Believer" -- but the Monkees, backed by a solid eight-piece band, made a case for the depth of their legacy with the strong caliber of B-list material they played. Non-hit tunes such as "When Love Comes Knockin' (At Your Door)," "Saturday's Child," "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?" and "For Pete's Sake" (the end credits them from "The Monkees" TV show) sounded fresh next to the more familiar fare, although the more cabaret-flavored songs such as "Cuddly Toy" and "Words" have not aged as well.

The trio also cheery picked some of the better tracks from their trippy 1968 film "Head," including "Can You Dig It," "Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?" and "Porpoise Song (Theme From 'Head')."

Tork, at one point, took a brief potshot at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not (yet) including his band in its ranks, but that also didn't matter to the Fox faithful. On Thursday night, they were just happy to be Monkeeing around one more time.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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