The Monkees have reunited and are on tour?! Right. Next you’ll be telling me someone’s staged a play about The Shaggs!
Putting aside issues of their age and ability, and their potential to draw an audience decades past the height of their popularity, a Monkees tour was an unlikely prospect due to their experience last time around. In 2001, Peter Tork (a recovering alcoholic) quit before the tour’s end, alleging excessive drinking and abusive behavior by Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz. As recently as two years ago, Tork was quoted saying he had no interest in either another reunion or in sharing a stage with Dolenz.
The lure of a 45th anniversary commemoration of the band must have proved irresistible to all concerned, because Tork is currently sharing a stage with Dolenz and Jones on a 30-some-city tour. And however he felt in the recent past, Tork at least gives the appearance of having a blast onstage with the other two. (Mike Nesmith, who reportedly dislikes touring and can’t possibly need the money, is sitting this one out, as he has nearly all the previous Monkees reunions).
Given their origins as a “pre-fabricated” band created for a TV show, along with the “boys’” advanced ages (65-68), modest expectations for a contemporary Monkees concert seemed reasonable. Personally, I would not have been surprised if the show had been a blatant cash grab—brief, heavy on hits medleys and schmaltz—a “hand wave” farewell gesture to their fans. At best I expected the kind of competent yet uninspired “nothing but hits” performances that constitute so many oldies package tours.
What we got instead, at the recent concert my wife and I attended (on June 26, in the fabulous Egyptian Room of Old National Center, Indianapolis, Indiana), couldn’t have been much further from my cynical forecast. Over the course of more than two hours, The Monkees delved some 40 songs deep into their catalog, proving themselves to be at least the equal of any of the nostalgia acts we’ve seen. The song selection, energy, and musicianship so exceeded the typical nostalgia show, in fact, I’d put this among the top ten concerts I’ve attended in recent years.