By Rob Sheffield
The last time we all saw Micky Dolenz, he was playing himself in the Syfy original movie Mega-Python vs. Gatoroid, which starred Tiffany and Debbie Gibson, back in January. He had a cameo where he appeared onstage to sing some hits for an Everglades preservation benefit, except the show got interrupted when he was eaten by a mega-python. Or maybe that was a gatoroid. I'll have to watch the movie again.
The point is, the Monkees have never been far from the heart of American culture. People are always glad when they show up. Their hits have never left the radio. And their first reunion tour in 10 years is a marathon. Last night at New York's Beacon Theater, they played over two hours and did literally dozens of songs. Thirty-six songs? 40? Who's counting?
You can't accuse the Monkees of phoning it in – this was an excellent show from a legendary pop band giving out much, much, much more than they had to. Hardcore crowd, too – the kind of Monkeemaniacs who roar when they see the roadies wheel a kettledrum onstage, because they know that means it's time for Micky's psychedelic rant "Randy Scouse Git."
Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork seem to have fixed the glitches from their 2001 tour. Of course, Mike Nesmith has apparently hung up his shades and sideburns for good. But his absence just meant Peter sang the Mike songs, doing a new banjo-driven arrangement of "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round," which by any sane standard is one of the greatest pop songs ever.
The Tork quotient was peaking all night, in fact. (Awesome French-horn solo on "Shades of Grey"! Anyone know where I can score one of his black velvet silver-buttoned tunics?) And predictably, they threw in plenty of Monkee-esque clowning. (Micky: "I dressed up in my hippie regalia." Peter: "I almost drowned in one of those once!")
The set list was just nuts, with one welcome surprise after another. Along with their eight-piece backing band, the trio did deep cuts, obscurities, even a long string of non-hits from their drug-addled 1968 film Head, which hardly anybody has seen except for us Monkees freaks. ("As We Go Along" – damn what a song.) Maracas master Davy Jones showed off his surprisingly nimble boogaloo moves to "She Hangs Out," while Micky scatted the lung-busting R&B workout "Goin' Down."
Davy also sang "I Wanna Be Free," one of my least favorite Monkees songs, yet even that one sounded kind of cool. (Never really noticed before, but it's basically the exact same song as Lou Reed's "Sunday Morning.")
They saved the really big hits for the final half hour – "Daydream Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," "Last Train To Clarksville." But nobody in the audience left or got restless. People tend to become Monkees fans when they're little kids, so they adopt weird personal favorites, which means nobody wanted a straightforward greatest-hits show. And the Monkees left nothing out. It's hard to imagine anybody disappointed by this show unless they just plain hate life. Or unless they're a mega-python.