Last night I had the pleasure of seeing The Monkees in concert at Mohegan Sun. The Monkees were an iconic group from the sixties. They were Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith(Nesmith is not currently touring with the band). They appeared in a television show by the same name that ran from 1966 to 1968. Their first musical director was none other than Don Kirschner. Kirschner was an extremely talented musical producer and manager. The show involved all sort of antics, a love interest, a song or two, a heavily modified Pontiac GTO and lots of running around.
Much controversy surrounded the band at the time. They didn’t play their own instruments, partly true. They didn’t write their own songs, partly true. They lip synched on the show, true. Their talent was the singing of pretty well written songs. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, a successful song writing team, wrote the Last Train to Clarksville. Many songs on their first album were co-written by Carole King. Neil Sedaka, Carol Bayer Sager, Michael Nesmith and Neil Diamond all have song- writing credits for the Monkees as well.
The Arena was nearly full when The Monkees took the stage. They were accompanied by a rather large backup band, which included, a drummer, bass, and rhythm guitars, two keyboardists, a percussionist as well as a horn section. All the musicians were mic’d for back-up vocals as well.
The theme from the Monkees show started up. The band took the stage and broke into I’m a Believer, sung by Dolenz and Jones. The crowd was immediately into it with everyone in the audience singing along with the band. I was struck by the amount of young kids there. Perhaps they were going out with grandma and grandpa! In the background a video screen played scenes from the TV show.
For the song, When Love Comes Knockin’ at Your Door, Dolenz sang, and played the drums. As a drummer myself, I can assure you that it is not an easy task. The rest of show was, Jones, Tork and Dolenz, trading center stage. There were some great stage antics and the banter was pretty funny. It was obvious that they were having a great time together. Jones told a wonderful joke about his friend Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits), with the punch line being Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A lovely Walker. Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter was a number one hit in 1965. Well, I thought it was funny!
My only criticism of the production was the audio set-up. Whereas the band was pretty tight and had a full, rich sound; Dolenz was way too loud and sounded pitchy. Tork, was not loud enough and his voice was muddied at times. Thankfully, none of the artists were Autotuned!
One highlight of the show was Jones coming on stage in a white tuxedo. He did a song and dance routine. Juxtaposed on the video screen, was a much younger Jones, doing the same routine. It was pretty cool. Another highlight was seeing some of the clips from the original show. I was pointing excitedly to them and telling my wife, I remember that one, and that one, and that one too.
During the show, I was struck by the innocence of the songs. The lyrics were playful, catchy, fun and clean. I’m no prude by any stretch of the imagination, but it saddens me that many songs these days have such an overt sexual tone, are misogynistic and glorify drinking and drug use.
The last song they played before the encore was Day Dream Believer. That song hit number one in 1967. John Stewart, of the Kinston Trio was the writer. This also happens to be my favorite Monkees song, so it was a special treat for me.
The band briefly left the stage and then returned for a three-song encore of Listen to the Band, Pleasant Valley Sunday and a reprise of I’m a Believer.
Everyone left the arena with a huge smile on his or her face. I was hoarse from yelling, screaming and singing. It felt good to be fourteen again, if only for two hours.