Review: The Monkees Triumphant Performance at the Beacon Theater (December 4, 2012)
I was lucky enough to be a member of the audience last night at the Monkees’ concert at the beautiful Beacon Theater in New York City. This was the closing date on the 12-stop tour (unless, as rumors have it, the trio of Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith decide to tour the UK).
First things first. It is impossible not to miss Davy Jones. There’s just no getting around that fact. The video tributes and the sing-a-long audience participation to “Daydream Believer” were classy and touching gestures but nothing can replace his legendary stage presence.
So how legitimate was a Monkees reunion without the pizzazz and panache of the most popular Monkee? Happily, it turns out it was entirely legitimate and, moreover, it was absolutely the right thing to do. This show not only honored Davy’s memory but made a life-affirming statement that he undoubtedly would have endorsed: “the show must go on.”
And what a show. This one was for the fans—the hardcore Monkeemaniacs who would know all the words to “Tapioca Tundra” and “Early Morning Blues and Greens.” The uninitiated may have been baffled by the inclusion of every song from “Head” but for those of us who harbor a not-so-secret love for that very strange movie it was pure nirvana. Just hearing Micky’s soaring tenor on “As We Go Along” was worth the price of admission.
I must admit several times during the show I experienced a WTF moment. Was that really Michael Nesmith onstage looking so relaxed and friendly? For skeptics questioning his motives this show was proof that he was fully committed. He was also truly funny (never more so than his Moog impression on “Daily Nightly”).
Back in 1986 I had witnessed his brief cameo at the reunion show at the Greek Theater and that was pretty thrilling but this was something else altogether—this was a performance that actually allowed Michael to stretch out and truly perform. Many of the show’s highlights were gems from his impressive songbook; a moody slowed-down version of “Sweet Young Thing,” a rocking “Mary, Mary” and the underrated pop confections “Sunny Girlfriend,” “You Told Me,” and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.”
The latter featured Peter’s perfectly-rendered harpsichord parts (albeit played on a synthesizer). In my opinion, Peter never performed better. On more than one occasion I felt his off-the-cuff humor was a bit too esoteric (or to put a finer point on it under-rehearsed) but last night Peter was pitch perfect. He gracefully ceded the spotlight to his partners who sang the majority of the leads and didn’t even seem to flinch when Michael playfully flipped him him the bird (Monkees iz the craziest people!).
For a guy who will turn 71 next February Peter looked like a million bucks and his singing was never stronger.
Micky? He was stupendous but is that really any surprise? He’s been delivering the goods for almost fifty years. Last night he was on his game. Even his drumming seemed to have an extra oomph.
Everything clicked at the Beacon Theater. The crowd was on their feet for almost the entire show, showering the group with adoration. It seemed Micky, Peter and Michael sensed the momentousness of the occasion and they rose to it.
Kudos to Andrew Sandoval, the archivist who has so lovingly restored the Monkees recorded work on all those lavish reissues we cherish. It was Andrew’s idea to stage the tour and he was the one who managed to lasso the ever-elusive Michael Nesmith—no mean feat. I imagine Papa Nez only agreed because he knew the tour was going to be in good hands and it was.
After the show I ran into Andrew who is now the group’s manager. He was beaming. “This is what the Monkees are capable of,” he told me when I congratulated him on staging the best Monkees show I’d ever seen. I have little doubt that thousands of people who attend last night’s show agreed with that sentiment. Indeed, this was one for the ages.