The Ryman crowd for “A Midsummer’s Night with The Monkees” was evenly split between two generations of fans. One was the original baby boomers who tuned into NBC every Monday night in the late 60’s to watch prime time television’s answer to The Beatles. The other was those who later discovered them in the 80’s during the show’s MTV and Nickelodeon syndication days. The remarkable zeal both groups share for their beloved Monkees was evident from the moment the doors opened with the merch line rapidly swelling to an hour-long wait.
This tour featured Mike Nesmith’s return to the Monkees live show after choosing to stay off of the road for their previous four reunion tours. The February 2012 death of Davey Jones, however, still meant that few of us had or will ever get the chance to see all four perform live together. Jones’ presence tonight was both heartfelt and visual by way of video which predominantly ran throughout the night.
Vintage clips were used to open the show as well as provide brief intermissions. During the set, they quite cleverly presented a “now and then” juxtaposition to the stage performance with musical segments from the TV show contrasting the song being played.
The Monkees took center stage at 7:40PM with “Last Train to Clarksville” backed by a seven-piece ensemble of players and singers. The remainder of the two-hour show followed a closely chronological order of the band’s recorded history. Their 30-song set list left little disappointment of their leaving out a hit. A good portion of the show was devoted to their highly-creative middle-period where they exercised more control over both their songwriting and playing.
A sharp turn to the evening’s flow was their inclusion of six songs from their 1969 feature film, Head. Probably the least known of their collective works, this was a very artsy project that in retrospect may seem more pretentious than hip as it was considered back then. During this segment, each member took a moment in the spotlight performing one of their songs from the film. The late Davy Jones even got a chance by means of a full video clip of him singing “Daddy’s Song.”
The Jones’ piece concluded the Head segment and became a perfect segue out of this brief lull into a tribute to his signature song, “Daydream Believer.” Honoring how Davy “owned” this song, the band bowed out from trying to take his place and chose instead to let a fan sing the lead part. They easily got the entire crowd to join in on the chorus—a touching moment indeed.
There were many other highlights throughout the night with both Nesmith and Dolenz displaying some great lead vocals. Tork, who was always more a funny man than a singer, showed himself to be quite adept musically, playing several instruments. He humbly acknowledged his effort to play the banjo on the hallowed Ryman stage. Tork surprisingly took a turn at singing lead vocals on “For Pete’s Sake,” a song that he wrote but which Dolenz sang much better on the record.
After “Nez” closed the set with the Nashville sounding “What am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” Micky introduced their accompanying players while the encore opened with the fittingly titled “Listen to the Band.” The night then finished with my personal favorite, and perhaps their best number, Goffin / King’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” The show that started early also ending early at 9:30PM leaving everyone enough time to do one more thing before they went home—finish shopping at the merch table!
This show was a pleasant reminder that The Monkees are pop music at its best. I certainly hope I will see these three perform again.
- Last Train to Clarksville
- Papa Gene’s Blues
- Your Auntie Grizelda
- The Kind of Girl I Could Love
- Sweet Young Thing
- I’m a Believer
- (I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone
- You Told Me
- Sunny Girlfriend
- You Just May Be the One
- Mary, Mary
- The Girl I Knew Somewhere
- Early Morning Blues and Greens
- Randy Scouse Git
- For Pete’s Sake
- No Time
- Daily Nightly
- Tapioca Tundra
- Goin’ Down
- Porpoise Song (Theme from “Head”)
- Can You Dig It?
- Circle Sky
- As We Go Along
- Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?
- [Daddy’s Song video]
- Daydream Believer
- What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?
- Listen to the Band
- Pleasant Valley Sunday
Mike Nesmith – Vocals and Electric Guitar
Micky Dolenz – Vocals, Drums, Percussion and Acoustic Guitar
Peter Tork – Vocals, Electric Guitar, Keyboards and Banjo
Coco Dolenz—Backing Vocals and Percussion
Dave Alexander—Backing Vocals and Keyboards
Christian Nesmith—Backing Vocals and Guitar
Aviva Maloney—Keyboards, Saxophone and Flute
Wayne Avers—Musical Director and Lead Guitar