When The Monkees arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 20, they were greeted by a week-long heat wave that had settled into the region, complete with excessive heat warnings and a blistering sun that had made it next to impossible to be out of doors without air conditioning. By showtime on Saturday evening, things were a bit more tolerable as temperatures had fallen slightly that day, but it was still steaming. Despite these conditions, Micky, Michael, Peter and company were scheduled to play the first outdoor venue on their 2013 tour, dubbed "A Midsummer's Night with The Monkees." The Mann Center for the Performing Arts is a large outdoor amphitheatre with covered seating but open spaces in the back of the venue and on the sides. The heat was a factor for concertgoers and Micky joked about it later during the show.
My seats, thanks to the pre-sale, were ideal...four rows back on Michael's side of the stage. A little after 7:30pm, the pre-show began. A variety of clips were screened, including Micky, Michael and Davy singing "Nine Times Blue" live on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969, which was a real treat to watch on the big screen. A few vintage commercials featuring The Monkees hocking products like Rice Krispies cereal, Yardley Black Label cologne, Nerf and Kool-Aid reminded you of how all-consuming the Monkees corporate machine was in the 1960s, but these bits are always fun to watch. Some music video romps from The Monkees television series were screened as well, including "Love Is Only Sleeping" filmed in the Rainbow Room, "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)" from the "Monkees in Manhattan" episode, and two Saturday Afternoon-era romps with Changes material substituted for the original first-run music selections. Select Monkees songs were played over the house speakers as well, including "Dream World" (great to hear this one), the Headquarters version of "Mr. Webster" and Micky's pre-Monkees single "Don't Do It."
Despite the heat, there was an excellent turnout for the show and the crowd was in great spirits throughout the evening. At about 8pm, a new, albeit brief, video package was screened that served as the formal start of the show and which ultimately brought The Monkees onto the stage. Various clips comprised the video, including scenes from Head; a late 1950s Kelloggs Sugar Pops commercial featuring Micky; Peter's 1982 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman; "Goin Down" on Breaking Bad; Davy on The Brady Bunch (which elicited a large reaction from the crowd); the 1967 Emmy Awards; a 1986 Monkees MTV bumper; and finally, the opening credits of the television series with the theme song blaring, which amped the crowd for the arrival of Micky, Michael and Peter.
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All in all, the concert in Philadelphia, the fifth stop on the 2013 tour, was a fantastic presentation. As great as the 2012 show was, I feel this performance was superior. It will be disappointing if a live album is not produced from this current round of concerts.
Kudos to Andrew Sandoval and company for overseeing the rebirth of The Monkees on the concert stage since 2011, one that has included a vast exploration of the group's song catalog as well as the addition of the multimedia aspects. All of it has made for a memorable stretch in the latest chapter of Monkees history. Perhaps Matthew Hay Brown, when reviewing the show in Washington, D.C. at the Warner Theatre, put it best: "Never have they sounded better, appeared more assured or been more enjoyable than right now."
For pictures from the concert in Philadelphia, click here and here.
And check out this cool cover of "Listen to the Band" by Hubert Laws that was played over the house speakers as concertgoers made their way out of the Mann:
Interview with Wayne Avers