Review: The Monkees at The Pantages – Nesmith’s Final Bow
By Fred Velez
Photo by Daniel Coston
When Michael Nesmith casually mentioned that he would be joining Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork at their Pantages Theatre show in Hollywood on September 16th, many hoped that he might join in on more shows afterward. Then Nesmith posted on his Facebook page that the Pantages would most likely be his final show as a member of the Monkees, fans scrambled to grab whatever tickets were left. I was able to score two tickets for me and my wife Linda and we quickly made travel plans for Los Angeles for what promised to be a major Monkees event. Prior to the Pantages show, Peter Tork posted on his Facebook page that he wouldn’t be available for the two Arizona show due to personal family matters, so Nesmith stepped in for Peter for the two performances just before the Pantages appearance.
Photo by Fred Velez
Linda and I arrived in Los Angeles the day before the show and after settling at our hotel, did some site seeing of Hollywood Boulevard and checking out the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the movie stars footprints at the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. One star on the Walk of Fame in particular we definitely wanted to find, the one for the Monkees. The last time I saw the star was at the 1989 ceremony held in front of the Vogue Theatre where the movie ‘Head’ premiered in 1968. Linda and I located the Vogue which sadly was now a shadow of its former glory and we found the Monkees star just a few feet from the theatre entrance. I felt a wave of wistful nostalgia, remembering being one of the security staff at the ceremony and being inside the theater talking with Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith and having my photo taken with them just moments before the actual ceremony. I posed in front of the Star as the four Monkees did in 1989 remembering Davy and wish he were still with us, then Linda and I did some more site seeing before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the next night’s concert.
With the Monkees inside the Vogue Theater, 1989. Photo by Michael Bush
With the Monkees Star, 2016. Photo taken by Linda Velez
On September 16th Linda and I did some more site seeing before getting dressed up for the concert. We arrived at the beautiful Pantages Theatre with its marquee lite up announcing the Monkees sold-out concert. We met up with many Monkees fans and several familiar faces like Monkees convention promoter Jodi Ritzen who was accompanied by long time Monkees friend and actress Valerie Kairys Venet, wife of the late record executive Nick Venet who had discovered the Beach Boys.
With Valerie Kairys Venet at the site of the former Ben Frank’s, now a Mel’s Drive-In. Photo by Linda Velez
As Linda and I entered the theatre we were pleasantly surprised to run into Marty Ross of the New Monkees who like the other members of the group are huge Monkees fans. Marty and I talked and had our photo taken together, Marty is a great, fun guy and he appreciated the kind words I said about the group in my book and I told him that he and the other New Monkees didn’t deserve the grief they had gotten over the years. The day after the concert Linda and I had a lovely dinner with Dino Kovas of the New Monkees who was also gracious and fun to talk to. Marty was suppose to join us but unfortunately was previously booked. We did have a wonderful phone conversation where we talked about our mutual admiration for the Monkees, the New Monkees, our musical interests among other things. It was great to break bread and make long overdue peace with the New Monkees and leave the nonsense behind and make two brand new and wonderful friends.
With Marty Ross of the New Monkees. Photo by Linda Velez
With Dino Kovas of the New Monkees. Photo taken by Linda Velez
With Jerry Beck and Gary Strobl. Photo by Linda Velez
After meeting up with more good friends like Jerry Beck who provided episodes at the early 1980 Monkees conventions and is now a major animation expert and long time Monkees friend Gary Strobl who is working partners with Monkees photographer Henry Diltz, Linda and I located our seats and excitedly waited for the show to begin.
Monkees Final Pre-Show Hug. Photo by Daniel Coston
Finally the lights dimmed and the crowd began to cheer as the shadowy figures of the band began taking their places on stage. Suddenly the background video screen glowed brightly as both the first season and second season openings of The Monkees TV series played side by side. Then the stage lights came up and there they were, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith flanked by their band which comprised of guitarist Wayne Avers, bassist John Billings, Drummer Rich Dart, keyboardist and background vocalist David Alexander, Micky’s sister Coco Dolenz was also providing background vocals. And for this show the band was supplemented by Nesmith’s son Christian on additional guitars and his partner Circe Link on additional background vocals. The three surviving Monkees embraced each other in their traditional group hug in what may have been their final time. They began with ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ and from that point on it hit after Monkees hit with many favorites being played llike ‘Papa Gene’s Blues’, ‘Auntie Grizelda’, ‘She’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’ sung by Micky & Peter who acknowledged the “original” singer and friend Davy Jones. The first of the ‘Good Times’ songs ‘She Makes Me Laugh’ was sung with great enthusiasm by Micky, followed by a rousing version of ‘The Girl I Knew Somewhere’ with Nesmith on lead vocals. ‘Sometime In The Morning’ followed with a lovely vocal by Micky, which seamlessly segued into ‘Me & Magdalena’ featuring a beautiful vocal duet between Michael and Micky which caught the fans delightfully off-guard.
Following the song the late Davy Jones was acknowledged again with ‘Shades of Gray’, with Davy’s isolated original vocal track coming over the speakers as Peter Tork played his keyboard part and the rest of the band joined in as images of Davy appeared on the video screen. It was a wonderful tribute to Davy and there was not a dry eye in the house.
‘Shades of Gray’. Photo by Fred Velez
More favorite songs were performed like ‘Randy Scouse Git’ with Micky wearing his “tablecloth” and ‘For Pete’s Sakes’ with Peter on lead vocals. Then the next ‘Good Times’ was performed, ‘You Bring The Summer’ with Jonathan Nesmith’s animated video for the song playing on the video screen.
Photo by Fred Velez
‘Listen To The Band’ and ‘What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?’ closed off the first half of the show before a short intermission with the fan’s excitedly wondering what surprises would come in the second half of the show. During the intermission rare Monkees videos played, some featured in the Rhino Monkees Blue Ray set including the Kool Aid commercials and Davy Jones’ solo performance of ‘Someday Man’.
Micky and Peter at the Pantages. Photo by Daniel Coston.
The second half began with a sizzling version of ‘Mary, Mary’ followed by a short set of songs from the movie ‘Head’ which included ‘Circle Sky’, ‘Porpoise Song’ and ‘Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?’. Next came ‘Words’, ‘Sunny Girlfriend’, ‘Steppin’ Stone’ followed back to back with the ‘Headquarters’ songs ‘You Just May Be The One’ and ‘You Told Me’ which segued right into the huge surprise of ‘Birth Of An Accidental Hipster’ from the ‘Good Times’ album with an incredible duet between Nesmith and Dolenz with Tork on banjo and a blistering guitar solo provided by Wayne Avers. The song garnered some of the loudest cheers from the fans.
Next up were ‘Goin’ Down’ with Micky choosing an audience member to sing the second verse of the song with ‘D.W. Washburn’ following soon after. Then Micky, Peter and the band all left the stage and Michael Nesmith stepped on stage with his Gretsch guitar and sat on a lone stool set up for him. He shyly acknowledged the loving cheers of the crowd and began telling a story of the first time the Monkees performed in concert in Hawaii in 1966 and were astounded by the screams of the fans before they even played one note. During that concert all four Monkees felt the presence of another person on stage with them but they couldn’t put their finger on it. After that first concert they all talked about the experience and Nesmith noted that Peter surmised that the extra presence they all felt was actually the fans, they had become a part of them. Nesmith thought about that and then wrote the song ‘Tapioca Tundra’ about that experience which included the lyric “It cannot be a part of me for now it’s part of you” which taken in context now makes sense. Nesmith then began to play an acoustic version of ‘Tapioca Tundra’ in an arrangement he had originally wanted to record the song in. He concluded the song to wild cheers from the fans.
Photo by Daniel Coston
Micky, Peter and the band returned to the stage for another tribute to Davy Jones as Peter played the keyboard intro to ‘Daydream Believer’ and Micky invited the fans to sing along with Davy as Jones isolated vocals burst forth from the speakers and the songs Rainbow Room video played on the large screen. As Davy sang and danced on the screen, most of the fans tearfully sang along in what was one of the most emotional moments of the show.
Photo by Fred Velez
After the song the Monkees took their bows and they and band briefly left the stage with the crowd screaming for more. After a short pause the crowd roared as they returned and played the encore which consisted of ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ and the final number ‘I’m A Believer’. At the songs end, the Monkees took center stage again for their final bows with Micky and Peter positioning Nesmith to the center for his own bow. You can see that the evening was as emotional for the Monkees as it was for the fans, especially with the knowledge that this was perhaps the very last time we would all see Michael Nesmith performing as a member of the Monkees. The Monkees and the band took their final bows and Micky and Peter exited towards one side of the stage while Michael exited in the opposite direction in what was taken as a symbolic gesture of Nesmith’s final goodbye to the Monkees and the fans while Micky and Peter will be continuing the Monkees 50th anniversary tour without him.
Photo by Daniel Coston
The Pantages show was an exciting, fun and emotional night and one that will hold a special place in Monkees history.
Monkees Final Bow With Michael Nesmith
Photo by Daniel Coston
Thanks to Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and their band for a magical night. Thanks to Davy Jones whose spirit was felt throughout the night.
Nez, Thanx For The Ride.
Photo by Sherri Hansen
Fred Velez, 2016.
Fred Velez is the author of the book ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From A Fan’s Perspective’.