Hey, hey here come the Monkees

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Hey, hey here come the Monkees

Posted on: May 25th, 2014 by tommyj

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Hey, hey here come the Monkees

The Monkees Perform At Mizner Park Amphitheatre

GREENSBURG — The Monkees might surprise you in concert, especially if you expect a novelty or oldies act.

"We’re truly a pop and rock show … we get tough," Monkees member Peter Tork said. "This is not all froth and giggles. It’s serious stuff here. We’re not 25 any more — we’re not even 45 — but we’re making good music from, in my opinion, one of the top songbooks of all-time, and you’re getting a strong sampling of that."

So does Tork have you sold yet on the Monkees’ show this Wednesday at the 1,300-seat Palace Theatre in Greensburg?

That’s stop number six of a 14-city jaunt for Tork and fellow original Monkees men Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz — their third tour together since the February 2012 death of the fourth original member, Davy Jones.

The Palace show will be multimedia, befitting the band that starred in a groundbreaking 1966-68 TV show that helped spark the concept of music videos.

"There will always be video in our shows," Tork said last Wednesday in a late-morning hotel room phone interview prior to the tour’s New Hampshire kickoff. "You’ll see some things from our TV show, black-and-white segments and old pictures, with one picture of Micky where I don’t even recognize him. It’s way out there. And there’s some recent stuff; some iconic stuff, one whole segment of pop-culture references mostly from the ’60s. We just saw it the other day and were very impressed. It’s just sparkling.

"You’ll see no live video projections of what we do on stage. All the video is archive footage," bassist-keyboardist Tork said. "Other than that it’s a concert show with songs you recognize and love; songs you almost forgot; and a couple of songs you’d like to forget, but don’t worry we get through those in just a few minutes."

Yes, Tork still flashes a bit of that oddball wit that was a big part of the charm and chemistry of the Monkees’ NBC show.

People who grew up watching that Beatles-inspired, song-infused sitcom have told Tork it meant much more to them than just silly fun and fresh tunes like "Daydream Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and the Neil Diamond-penned "I’m a Believer."

"The thing I hear them say is the TV show was their half-hour respite from the six-day and 23-and-a-half hour per week hell they were in," Tork said. "That says to me we stood for something."

Those were contentious times of cultural revolution and the Vietnam War — "a war we never should have joined," Tork said with anger surfacing in his voice. "We had no business being there."

Softened by time perhaps, the Monkees stuffed a symbolic message amid their show’s hijinks, with a typical episode finding the youthful foursome climbing out from a madcap predicament without any help from older adults, who were more likely to be a shady PR man, greedy businessman or crooked promoter.

"While the adults were off doing their own thing, we were young adults doing OK," Tork said. "That’s what ‘The Monkees’ signifies. We didn’t have to fight; we could be pleasant and have fun and still get things done."

Like their iconic theme song said: "We’re just tryin’ to be friendly/Come and watch us sing and play/We’re the young generation/And we’ve got something to say."

They’ve got plenty to play in their two-hour show Wednesday.

"We’re doing as well as we know how to make the songs sound just like they do on the records," Tork said. "Of course, recording methods were kind of thin then, and the songs sound much more robust when we play them now. But the keys and starts and stops and intros are all the same. You will be taken back. Back, back, back, back, back."

A couple of exceptions are expanded backup vocals they’ve given the Nesmith-penned "Mary, Mary," and deeper cut "A Door into Summer" from November 1967’s "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd."

For "Mary, Mary," Nesmith told the backing singers "let’s soul this up a bit," Tork said. "Now it has a Motown vocal feel."

Tork has a few favorite concert moments.

"The opening lick to ‘Daydream Believer,’ that’s me on the record, so I love doing that live," Tork said.

"Daydream Believer" is associated strongly with Jones who sang it on the record.

"So when we perform it live, no one sings lead," Tork said. "We take turns on pairings; Micky and I go first, than Mike and Micky. It’s our way of saying no single one of us can do lead on that song. It’s our little homage to Davy. We think it’s subtle, but we like it."

There’s also a video tribute to Jones during "Daddy’s Song," a Monkees track from their trippy 1968 movie "Head" co-written by Jack Nicholson, who also appeared in the film.

The passage of time has helped the Monkees grow accustomed to performing without Jones, a longtime central Pennsylvania resident.

"You do get used to it," Tork said.

Fans must have, too, as the three remaining Monkees’ November-December 2012 reunion shows were received so triumphantly the trio returned to stages the following summer, and are now hitting the road again this summer.

"It’s a reprise of the last tour, but the musicality has grown enormously since last year," Tork said. "For me, it’s still a big thrill because, you know, I’m still a kid at heart."

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