Reviewed onThursday December 15
Generally, the idea of seeing a version of a vintage band that only contains a couple of members of the classic lineup should be approached with extreme caution. The Monkees, however, have never been your average band.
Only Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork remain from the Pre-Fab Four that debuted on American TV in late 1966; Davy Jones passed away in 2012 and, having only appeared sporadically during the band’s various reunions, Michael Nesmith played his last show as a Monkee in September.
Aided by a crack backing band in Sydney, the remaining two Monkees put on a thoroughly entertaining and endearing show full of exquisite pop songs from an invincible catalogue. Garage classics like ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’, ‘Saturday’s Child’ and ‘Mary, Mary’ still held their rawness, Dolenz’s gravely growl giving them plenty of attitude.
As well as all the obvious crowd-pleasers, the band delved into The Monkees’ deep cuts with gems like ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’, ‘D.W. Washburn’ and ‘Your Auntie Grizelda’. There was also a suite of tracks from the band’s kooky cult classic film Head, beginning with the space cowboy rock of ‘Circle Sky’, through the blissed-out ‘Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)’ and concluding with the jaunty ‘Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?’.
Several tributes to the sadly departed Jones were paid throughout the show. His isolated vocal tracks were backed by the live band on a touching version of ‘Shades Of Gray’, whie Jones’ voice returned to lead the crowd in a mass sing-along to ‘Daydream Believer’.
Also given an airing were tracks from this year’s new (actually bloody great) Monkees album Good Times, including ‘She Makes Me Laugh’ written by Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo and ‘You Bring The Summer’ written by XTC’s Andy Partridge. The highlight of the new tracks was the Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie) composition ‘Me & Magdalena’, which saw Tork and Dolenz share its weary but tender vocals.
It’s odd to think that, potentially, a current band could be performing a similar anniversary tour in 2066. If it does, will the songs be anywhere near as impeccable as the likes of ‘Last Train To Clarksville’, ‘She’, ‘For Pete’s Sake’ or encore tracks ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ and ‘I’m A Believer’? It’s a tough ask.