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The Monkees – review

May 20, 2011 by  
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The Monkees perform in London

The Monkees’ Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz take the Royal Albert Hall back to their zany version of the 1960s. Photograph: Rune Hellestad/Corbis

Any excuse for a reunion. The Monkees have already reconvened for their 20th, 30th and 35th anniversaries, so it would have seemed churlish to let the 45th pass without a tour. As before, Mike Nesmith has refused to participate, leaving Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz to lever on the tight trousers for the nearly three-hour set.

With the Albert Hall full to capacity with old fans (and one or two young ones, possibly lured by their anomalous 1968 psychedelic movie Head), the Monkees are free to indulge themselves. They play 40 songs, including vaudeville numbers that involve zany voices and walks – it’s obvious why John Lennon described them as “the Marx Brothers of rock”. Even so, the set is full of interest; the Monkees are proper musicians as well as inveterate hams, and the incongruity produces some priceless moments.

A tranche of songs from Head – all meandering choruses accompanied by segments from the film, which baffled viewers in 1968 and again on Thursday – is followed by Jones tap-dancing in a white tuxedo; the cabaret cheese of I Wanna Be Free gives way to Steppin’ Stone, a song so punk the Sex Pistols covered it. And they joke about their age (Jones: “I’m Davy’s dad, Davy will be out in a minute”) while dropping in conspicuous references to the internet.

Throughout the set, the back-screen shows clips from their TV show, an era when moptopped pop groups lived together as wacky flatmates. Darting around in front of the screen, the now 60-something Monkees are almost as spry as their younger selves, turning a butt-kicking I’m a Believer into an emphatic finale. As they depart they shout: “Thank you, Chicago!” which could be a senior moment, but is probably just more zaniness from a band who’ve refused to grow up.


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