Shows I’ll Never Forget: The Monkees, November 16, 2012

At the Chicago Theatre, Chicago, Illinois: Many so-called nostalgia acts figure all the crowd wants is to hear the big hits. However, longtime fans were richly rewarded on November 16, 2012, when The Monkees hit the stage and treated the audience to deep album tracks as well as the hits. In other words, fans of the Head movie were in their glory, as the now-trio — Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork — performed a healthy dose of the soundtrack. Along the way, the three saluted other Monkee member Davy Jones, who passed away in February 2012. Through videoclips and music, Jones was present in spirit.

The concert proved a multimedia affair, an appropriate technique for a group initially created for television. Clips of various “romps” from the Monkees series provided a backdrop for the three, along with their excellent backing band. The sold-out audience roared with approval when Dolenz, Nesmith, and Tork made their entrance, hitting the ground running with a spirited rendition of “Last Train to Clarksville.” Here and throughout the evening, Dolenz displayed his still-strong voice, lending credence to the belief that he remains an underrated rock singer. Tork, who alternated playing guitar, bass, piano, and banjo, performed a delightfully loopy rendition of the silly “Auntie Grizelda.” His comical footwork, facial expressions, and interaction with front row fans perfectly accompanied the insane tone of the track.

Anticipation was high for Nesmith, who returned to the Monkees after a 15-year absence. His droll voice, accented with a country twang, sounded strong on “You Just May be the One,” “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round,” and “You Told Me,” a track from their landmark 1967 album Headquarters. Judging by his multimedia-heavy solo career, Nesmith chooses not to overly dwell in the past, and proved this through his radically different reading of “Sweet Young Thing,” slowing down the tempo and adding Middle Eastern accents. He also surprised fans with “Tapioca Tundra,” a track from their 1968 album The Birds, The Bees and the Monkees. Wearing a wry expression, Nesmith crooned the largely free-association lyrics, featuring tongue-twisting lines such as “Silhouettes and figures stay close to what he had to say, and one more time the faded dream is saddened by the news.”

The most fascinating section of the concert was the Head sequence, during which the Monkees performed virtually every song from the album. Dolenz’s voice still glides over the ethereal “Porpoise Song” and the romantic “As We Go Along,” both co-written by Carole King. Over the years, Dolenz has become a gifted interpreter, as he effectively evoked emotion out of the latter song. Tork tore through the overlooked “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again,” a fierce jam that remains one of the best songs he ever composed. He also led the band in “Can You Dig It?” a psychedelic workout that swirls with its Middle Eastern sound. The belly-dancing segment from the film served as the backdrop. Not to be outdone, Nesmith wailed through the rocker “Circle Sky,” his still defiant voice adding new meaning to the lyric “And it looks like we made it once again.” To pay tribute to Jones, a video of Jones performing “Daddy’s Song” from the film loomed over the stage, with the band providing live accompaniment to Jones’ spirited singing and footwork. The trio continued this playful mood throughout the show, joking with one another and the audience.

Throughout the night, the trio seemed bent on demonstrating that they could still rock out. Dolenz paced the stage, spitting out the angry lyrics to “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” while the band emphasized the pre-punk overtones of the track. Wearing a replica of his familiar ’60s poncho, he furiously pounded the bass drum during the hard-driving “Alternate Title (Randy Scouse Git).” “Why don’t you cut your hair? Why don’t you live up there? Why don’t you do what I do, see what I feel when I care!” Dolenz yelled, the words still sounding as defiant as they did in 1967.

The most emotional moment of the night came toward the end, when the trio and a randomly chosen audience member led the crowd in a massive singalong to “Daydream Believer.” Dolenz introduced the song by explaining how he and the band debated how to perform the song, since the Jones vocal was so important to the track. In the end they decided that none of them could do “Daydream Believer” justice like Jones; therefore they elected to have the audience sing the ever-familiar words. “The song belongs to you now,” Dolenz said, extending his microphone over the crowd.

After their final song, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” it was evident that the Monkees had accomplished their goal: celebrating their loyal fans and demonstrating that they have all evolved into top-notch performers. At the same time, they respectfully honored their departed bandmate. While the Monkees celebrated their past, they also acknowledged how far they have come as musicians.

Set list for the Monkees, Chicago, November 16, 2012:
Last Train to Clarksville
Papa Gene’s Blues
Your Auntie Grizelda
She
Sweet Young Thing
I’m a Believer
(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
I Wanna Be Free
(Davy on video)
You Told Me
Sunny Girlfriend
You Just May Be the One
Mary, Mary
The Girl I Knew Somewhere
For Pete’s Sake
Early Morning Blues and Greens
Randy Scouse Git
Daily Nightly
Tapioca Tundra
Goin’ Down
Porpoise Song (Theme From “Head”)
Daddy’s Song
(Davy on video)
Can You Dig It?
As We Go Along
Circle Sky
Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?
Daydream Believer
(Vocals sung by audience)
What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?
Encore:
Listen to the Band
Pleasant Valley Sunday

Kit O'Toole

Kit O'Toole is a lifelong music enthusiast who maintains a stand-alone music blog called Listen to the Band. In addition, she is the internet columnist and a contributing editor for Beatlefan magazine. She also holds an Ed.D. in Instructional Technology. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.

15 Comments

  1. I was there. It was amazing. Im suprised you didn’t mention Mikes hilarious expressions as he sung the moog synth part.

  2. Karen Stoessel says:

    Great review Kit. Although not a big Monkee’s fan, I did like them. I was a die-hard Beatle fan and the Monkee’s just were copy-cats in my eyes. But my favorite song was “She.” I might have to bring out the Monkee playlist on my iPod! But the burning question I have is…did Mike Nesmith wear his stocking cap???? : ) Glad you had a good time.

  3. Thanks for commenting! Unfortunately I was sitting in the nosebleed section way up in the balcony, so I couldn’t see Nez’s expressions very well. It was really funny, though; I was also impressed with Micky’s vocals on “Daily Nightly.”

  4. Not only did Micky hand the vocal over to the audience, but he also offered the microphone to whoever wanted to sing it. A guy named Tyrone took the stage with the mic. I thought that was so cool.

  5. I was in the second row and it was an awesome concert. Mike’s facial expression were hilarious and I loved the clowning around on stage, like Mike curtsying when he was introduced by Micky and Micky making fun of Mike’s shoes. I loved Peter’s performance of For Pete’s Sake and Early Morning Blues and Greens. Micky was fantastic on Randy Scouse Git and Goin’ Down. Mike did an awesome job on Papa Gene’s Blues and The Girl I Knew Somewhere. I had tears in my eyes when they played the videos of Davy. I had a great time in Chicago that night!

  6. I was at the Chicago concert. it was defiantly a Mike Nesmith night . The show catered To him and his songs. I did love seeing him play and sing his Monkee songs. He was the most changed. I was at the 45th Illinois concert last year and enjoyed that one a little bit better. The three back then was Davy R.I.P. Micky and Peter. they did more on stage The Monkee walk and everything. Like I said. I loved the show Cus I am a Monkee fan. But it was a Mike night does anyone agree

    • I was at the Buffalo concert and ya, I suppose there was a great deal of emphasis on the Nesmith material but I believe that was totally appropriate but it’s not like his songs bumped any other songs from the line-up. Davy songs were dropped while Dolenz and Tork maintained their material with the exceptions being when Nez took back “Hangin’ Round” from Peter and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere” from Micky.

      The 2012 tour is a concert tour. The tours without Nesmith were, without exception “musical reviews”.

  7. Theresa, yes I will agree with you, a Mike night…well I’d seen Mike as a Monkee in Chicago in 1969, and then the other 3 in concert together a couple of times in the last 10 yrs or so including last year…I think it is perhaps just the dynamic that Mike has (more musical) compared to Davy (more showmanship) I think. The current Chicago concert was fantastic, but Davy’s physical presence was missing!

  8. Lance Swanson says:

    The Cupertino show was an epic night for Mike, Micky & Peter! They were simply amazing, and I’m glad the Chicago show was terrific as well. We must let these guys know that they should not quit after 12 shows. Take a little break, rehearse a dozen more songs, and go out next year again and mix up the setlists a little. I would love to hear even deeper tracks than on this tour and want to hear SALESMAN. Cheers Monkee fans! Peace

  9. Thanks so much for your review of the concert. From what I was watching on You Tube it seemed quite emotional without Davy Jones. The fans seemed like they needed this concert.

    • Diva, I know I needed this concert. I’m one of the “diehard” fans who have loved and kept up with them since a little girl in 1966. My world became much darker when Davy Jones passed away. I thought I would never again see my favorite group on stage singing their beloved songs. So when this tour was announced I was over the moon. It was bittersweet without Davy and I cried during the tributes, but I can finally say I have seen Michael Nesmith live in concert! The Chicago Theater is beautiful and the show was amazing, as were the shows in Cleveland and Buffalo. A highlight for me each night was “Sweet Young Thing.” The new arrangement was totally cool. The one thing I’d like to add, Kit, is that the Head soundtrack was featured in the 2011 shows as well as this year. Davy danced around the stage during “Daddy’s Song” wearing white tails and pants over a black shirt as the screen behind showed the young Davy dancing with Toni Basil. The crowd roared their approval each night. What was new this year was the focus on “Headquarters” as it was released 45 years ago this year. I hope there is a show next year, and dare I ask for the spotlight to be on “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd.”?

  10. What a cool night that was. From start to end, they proved they were and are a great band.

    I will never forget this, Micky was right on, Peter Kicked it out as well as did mike with so many cool tunes he wrote.

    A night of a life time, I hope they cpme back in the spring, they still got it, but good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Steve

  11. 15+ yrs ago the monkees came to my town and sad to say Michael chose not to be a part of the band at that time…so i don’t know why he would want to be a part after Davy can no longer be a part of it…it really bugged me at the time and it still does i guess

  12. Barbara Matter says:

    I was at the concert in chicago Micky,Peter and Mike did real good I love all the songs had me singing to all of them. it, the best birthday present i ever had! I was sitting all the way up top in the last roll!

  13. This was such a great night. I never thought I would see Mike Nesmith on tour with the Monkees again. After Davids passing, it seemed it was over. But in no way is it, they were just great, you could tell they were having a good time. I hope they continue this tour next year. Mike is also talking about a solo tour in the spring, that would be way cool. I have a solo show from England this year, wow, just amazing!

    I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

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