The Monkees turn back the clock in fun, energetic show

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The Monkees turn back the clock in fun, energetic show

Posted on: June 10th, 2014 by tommyj

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The Monkees turned back the clock to the swingin’ 1960s Thursday night at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, and their appreciative fans loved it.

From the rollicking opening with “Last Train To Clarksville” to the final encore of “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and for two hours in between, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork kept the hits coming with the audience clapping and singing along.

Some bands playing nostalgia concerts sometimes sound like a shell of their former selves. Yet The Monkees are all hovering around age 70 and sounded like younger musicians – especially Dolenz.

“It’s really impressive that Micky can still hit the high notes,” Cory Hammerstone of St. Louis said after Dolenz sang stellar lead vocals on “Words.” An unidentified woman in the audience put it another way, waiting until the applause following that song waned, to yell, “I love you Micky.”

Dolenz, speaking in advance of the concert, said his strong singing voice is due to a combination of the right parents and lots of practice.

“A little bit of it is genetics — my parents were both singers,” Dolenz said. “And it is a muscle — your vocal cords. If you stretch and warm up and don’t abuse them and don’t hurt them and train, that helps.”

He also is still hitting the high notes and rockin’ it like a youngster because of a serendipitous hiatus.

“After The Monkees, when my peers were starting to tour and play and sing, and (people) could still smoke in clubs,” he said, chuckling, “which can be just brutal on your voice. I moved to England.”

In was the early 1970s — and Dolenz spent about 15 years directing and producing English TV shows – no acting, singing or performing.

“So I guess at that point, my voice and cords got about 10 years ahead of the game,” he said.

Dolenz and Nesmith pretty much split the lead vocals, with Tork playing guitar, banjo and keyboards and lending his voice to a few songs as lead. Nesmith played guitar and Dolenz played guitar, drums, bass drum (during “Randy Scouse Git”) and maracas.

Each had a unique role on stage. Dolenz was high energy and personable, often bounding and twirling across the stage while performing. He rocked the house singing and dancing to the lively “Going Down,” while his younger self sang and danced the same song on the big screen behind him. Nesmith was lower key, letting his guitar, strong vocals and sparkly black-and-silver shoes speak for him. Tork provided some narration and added comic relief such as mugging for the audience, a role he excelled in when “The Monkees” was a hit TV show from 1966 to 1968.

In addition to a group of five backup musicians, including Nesmith’s son, and two backup singers including Dolenz’s sister, the group was backed by a huge screen which showed a mix of clips and photos from the TV show, early concerts, the movie “Head” and behind-the-scenes moments. After Dolenz kicked off the lead vocals with “Last Train To Clarksville,” it was fascinating to watch Nesmith’s younger self sing along in perfect synchronization on screen as he performed “Papa Gene’s Blues” on stage. Then Tork sang “Your Auntie Grizelda,” typical of the silly songs he was given back in the day.

The concert featured 30 songs with all the tops hits, and a consistent high level of musicianship and singing, with plenty of fun moments. While discussing “I’m a Believer,” written by Neil Diamond, Dolenz talked about how fortunate The Monkees were to benefit from, among others, the songwriting talents of Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and the “Neil trio” – Sedaka, Diamond and Armstrong. Pausing to let his last comment sink in, Dolenz cracked, “Hey, he wrote ‘Blue Moon.’”

When Tork and Dolenz combined to sing “Shades of Gray,” Dolenz got another laugh by tugging on Tork’s graying locks just as he sang “only shades of gray.” Fans were encouraged to clap in rhythm with the tunes and sing along, which they happily did. Based on the dancing in the seats, cups raised in tribute and antics of many in the crowd, The Monkees were every bit the hit they were in the ‘60s.

The concert closed with a touching tribute to Davy Jones, who died Feb. 29, 2012. Dolenz, Nesmith and Tork combined to sing “Daydream Believer,” Jones’s biggest hit, while clips and still photos of him filled the screen behind the stage. With encouragement from the backup singers, members of the audience held their cell phones aloft and lit the darkened theater with arcs of light.

The trio returned for two encores – “Listen to the Band” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” before sending the crowd home with smiles on their faces.

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