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The Monkees, Royal Albert Hall

May 19, 2011 by  
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The Monkees: Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz

The Monkees: Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz

The Monkees’ Head was their celluloid suicide note. They chanted that they were a manufactured band with no philosophy. The film caught an authentic psychedelic vision which came to life again last night. Post-interval, the show continued with a stunning run through of the Head soundtrack songs, most of which had never been played live. Reclaiming this maverick and wilful part of their career, The Monkees said last night that they were more than the puppets of those who had assembled them as TV-land America’s answer to The Beatles.

This wasn’t the pop band known and loved by many, but the underground-embracing Monkees that hobnobbed with Jack Nicholson and Frank Zappa. Live last night, Head’s psychedelic, middle-eastern styled “Can You Dig It” was as freaky as on the original album, and accompanied on stage by a belly dancer. Micky Dolenz’s strong vocal on “As We Go Along” highlighted the song’s Tim Buckleyisms. The drifting, languid “Porpoise Song” was as seductive as the studio recording. The surprise of seeing this material played live was surpassed by how good it was in this setting.

“All aspects of The Monkees’ musical sprawl were on display last night, yet it was a seamless evening”.

Head and the bonkers 1969 TV special 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee publicly acknowledged that the chirpy small-screen Monkees were dead, but what’s striking is the original band’s drawn-out death. After Tork’s departure in December 1968 and Nesmith’s a year later, it took until September 1970 for the end to be acknowledged by the two-piece Jones and Dolenz Monkees. A non-Nesmith reunion in 1987 resulted in the Pool It album, but that didn’t last long. Dolenz, Jones and Tork reunited again in 1996 and played London the following year. They went their separate ways again and here we are, again without Nesmith, on the slightly chronologically wonkily-titled 45th Anniversary Tour (they were assembled in November 1965).

All aspects of The Monkees’ musical sprawl were on display last night, yet it was a seamless evening – even with the Head segment. The songs had been chosen and sequenced by Davy Jones. There were two sets, with a 20-minute interval. This was celebration was total. In the context of the 39 songs aired, even the schmaltz-fest that’s “I Wanna be Free” shone.

Great song followed great song. The first half opened with “I’m a Believer”, which gave way to a tough “Mary Mary”. The eight-piece backing band – mostly drawn from Jones’s live band – caught the flavour of the songs well by being straightforward.

“Jones is not-quite catering-size ham, Dolenz was more reserved and Tork looked like the Wizard of Oz’s straw man”.

Dolenz, Jones and Tork themselves were always mismatched – brought together to reflect distinct personalities of individual Beatles – but on stage in 2011 they appeared even more disparate. Jones is a not-quite catering-size ham, always hoofing, jigging and ready to make a crack. Dolenz, in his hat and clad in black was more reserved – he probably had to be, as many songs called for him to sing while drumming. Tork looked like The Wizard of Oz’s straw man and his asides were often cut off by Jones. The years have bred a familiarity bordering on curt. There was little banter between the songs. The evening moved forward without brakes.

Nesmith was absent, but his songs “What Am I Doing Hanging Around”, “Listen to the Band” and Head’s “Circle Sky” didn’t miss him. Tork’s vocals weren’t strong, but he did the songs no disservice.

Written by Kieron  Tyler

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2 Responses to “The Monkees, Royal Albert Hall”
  1. FPSKFP says:

    I wasn’t too sure what to expect from this gig, but my hopes were high, especially when remembering fondly back to your last gig in the UK, but sadly I was a bit disappointed.

    I found that the sound quality wasn’t great, not too sure whether it’s to do with the Albert Hall itself, or just that the vocals were being drowned out at times by the actual band, together with a “tinny sound” because of the “mixing” by the sound engineers.

    You boys put on a great performance, it was nice to see the interaction between yourselves and give credit where it is due, you, Davy tried do your little dances, albeit it was knackering you out in the end! Also, it was lovely to see both Davy and Pete go down into the audience, what a thrill that most have been for those who managed to “touch their idols”! Just think, back in your heyday, if you ever dared to do that, you would have been “ripped to pieces”! Credit due, you did try your hardest to put a good show on. Loved looking at the visuals on the screen as well, was reminiscing about my youth as I watched!

    The major downside for me was that the audience inter reaction, it was pretty non existent. I’m not too sure whether this was because of the venue, or the age group or the “reservedness” of the English. I know there is much debate as to whether or not you should stand at gigs (I’ve been to plenty where you try to get and dance and told to sit down), but for me, I like to get up and dance and was really relieved when finally people did stand.

    But it wasn’t just the “not getting up to boogie on down” that I found lacking, looking around a lot of people were sitting deadly still, me I was waving my hands in the air and yelling, scaring the woman in front of me each like I let out a “scream or woohoo”!!! I don’t know how I would feel if I was on stage, putting all my soul into what I was doing, only to look forward into a still audience, must be quite worrying and upsetting.

    I know everyone enjoys gigs in a different way, but I found it very staid. Even my sister, who rarely goes to gigs (and is much more reserved than me) made the same comment, about how the audience was just sitting there.

    All in all though, I’m recommending my friends to go and see you, even it’s just for nostalgia reasons (actually one of them was desperately waiting to hear back from me as she is living in the States and is thinking of going to one of your gigs!)

    The highlight of the evening though was doing the meet and greet. It was more for my sister than anything else, but I enjoyed as well. It was lovely of Pete to come out and chat to those who were there and even though both Davy and Micky were all wiped out from the gig (must admit, I thought that Davy was about to fall asleep at one stage, good on you for keeping yourself awake!) and just appeared for the signings and photos, it was great to see them up close and personal. The only real downer is that I was hoping that I was going to be taller than Davy, but nope, you are still taller than me, what a real bummer!


  2. desilu1977 says:

    I agree about the sound quality I did not attend this show but saw some clips on youtube , but I will be attending the show here in the US in Jacksonville, Florida with my husband who has been a mucician and a sound and lighting tech for over 35 years we run our own sound/lighting/and AV company and his lighting has been featured in wedding magazines, he has also provided sound and lighting for several name acts such as The Drifters , KC and the sunshine band, & Aaron Neville and the neville brothers just to name a few. as you said the sound quality was terrible , the lighting could have been better too not enough colors. if anyone would like to check out some of my husband’s work in lighting visit our website @ he does a lot of up-lighting for weddings. you will see the pics by scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking on pics of shows.

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