Micky Dolenz charms with hits, stories
Gusto Contributing Reviewer
on November 15, 2014 – 10:13 AM
There is an inherent uneasiness that comes with stepping out to watch a concert performance by an aging artist. Chief among the concerns: Is the voice you knew and loved decades ago shot? Is the person who oozed sex appeal now a feeble senior citizen wobbling around the stage? Does the artist who commanded his career now seem to be working because he needs the money?
Such were my thoughts as I took my seat at the Bear’s Den inside the Seneca Niagara Casino Friday night as Micky Dolenz, the singer of the made-for-television band The Monkees, took the stage.
It took less than one song for Dolenz to put every one of those fears to rest.
Clad in black slacks, a charcoal blazer, a tasseled scarf, sneakers, a fedora, and the requisite rose-colored glasses, Dolenz was every bit the rock star he was when he broke onto the music scene nearly 50 years ago.
Backed by a six-piece band that included his sister Coco on vocals, Dolenz opened with “Mary Mary,” one of the earliest releases for the television incarnation of The Monkees. With a smile on his face and an ease about him that comes with a half-century of performing on stage, he kicked off the 90-minute set in glorious fashion.
Throughout the evening, he mixed classic Monkees tunes (“Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday”) with plenty of lesser-known gems, and lots of storytelling. The crowd, largely made up of people who grew up listening to the Monkees on their transistor radios, ate it up.
Following a raucous performance of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” he told one of his best stories of the night. Talking about being invited to Abbey Road to sit in on a session with The Beatles during the height of Beatlemania, Dolenz recounted his excitement as the big day arrived.
“I got dressed up in my paisley pants and my tie-dyed underwear looking like a cross between Ronald McDonald and Charlie Manson,” he joked. He arrived to find only the four band mates in the studio, and no screaming female fans. Decades later, Dolenz beamed as he recalled how John Lennon playfully referred to him as “Monkee Boy.”
From his high-octane cover of the late ’60s hit, “Gimme Some Lovin’ ,” to his encore of “I’m a Believer” (“tell your kids I was singing this way before Shrek”), it was an evening of music that truly had something for everyone.
Dolenz’s best performance came when he belted out the Monkees classic, “D.W. Washburn,” a song that showcased the strength of his seemingly ageless voice, though the crowd went crazy when sister Coco stepped to the front of the stage and joined him for a duet of the Everly Brothers’ “Crying in the Rain.”
Adding to the night was the Bear’s Den. With just 440 seats, it’s less like a concert venue and more like a large living room, where your favorite artist just happened to stop by to play a few songs. The intimacy of the room played perfectly to Dolenz the storyteller.
With a voice that belies his age and a spring in his step performers 40 years his junior lack, Micky Dolenz was, quite simply, fun to watch.