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This is Now : London Times UK Review

March 31, 2011 by  
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The Times from England
March 21 1997

Band that never really was makes a comeback that isn’t
Last train to nowhere

The Monkees
Wembley Arena, Middlesex

IN A decade which has witnessed such unlikely reunions as those of
the Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols, you can hardly blame the
Monkees for getting back together again. Unlike those other acts, the
Monkees have no artistic credibility or historical reputation to
“betray”. They were a made-up group in the first place, a pure, Saturday
tea-time entertainment phenomenon with a cultural significance roughly
on a par with that of Sooty and Sweep.
But that hardly excuses the many moments of toe-curling
embarrassment and intermittent stretches of boredom that were generated
by much of this show. It started with a neat “magical” flourish as the
four men appeared, seemingly out of thin air, in a shower of sparks.
Dressed in blue crushed velvet suits, Davy Jones, 51, Michael Nesmith,
54, Micky Dolenz, 52 and Peter Tork, 53, picked up their instruments and
lashed into Last Train to Clarksville. It sounded surprisingly good, and
for the first half of the show they played and sang entirely unaided,
pointedly dispelling one of the most tenacious myths, that they never
really mastered their instruments.
The inane vaudevillian antics of Alternative Title raised a smile
here and there, and a huge cheer went up when they played I’m A Believer
which, along with Daydream Believer, was clearly the song most people
had come to hear. But the set included too many unfamiliar numbers, both
old and new.
Things started to go seriously awry when the session musicans were
smuggled on and the individual members started doing their party pieces.
Nesmith provided an achingly dull reading of his only solo hit, Rio, and
Tork weighed in with a pub-rock version of Lucille. Dolenz offered a
numbingly dreadful rendition of the torch song Since I Fell For You
before the diminutive Jones leapt in with a cabaret song-and-dance
routine that made Ernie Wise look like Fred Astaire.
The mood of desperately forced frivolity escalated throughout the
second half of the set, which was intercut with clips from the new
Monkees TV series, and it became painfully apparent that gags and
routines which might be carefree, ephemeral fun in the hands of a
fresh-faced gang of youths quickly lapse into naff self-parody when the
participants are clearly of an age to know better.
The perfunctory encores of (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone and Pleasant
Valley Sunday partly redeemed the situation, but the real sadness
was that, whatever the aesthetic considerations, the show as a whole had
failed to entertain.


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