By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Live Review: ‘The Monkees Farewell Tour’ with Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith – Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida – October 14, 2021
To us kids that remember the years 1966-1968, Monday nights were dedicated to watching the Monkees. We little girls considered them to be America’s answer to The Beatles in the vein of Help! The show was slapstick funny and was one of the few shows we could watch on our color console TV set. Forty-five records like “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer” were common purchases and every lyric was memorized. Back then it was the “grown-up girls” that would buy their albums or would see the film Head.
Sadly, when I look back at the Monkees, most people thought of the band as a “fake band for a kid’s show” and have only heard the popular songs they recorded that were written by Boyce and Hart, Neil Diamond, Carol King, and others. They are unfamiliar with the period after the show ended when the band wrote and produced their own music—away from the grip of Don Kirshner.
Flash forward to the 1980s, interest in the Monkees resurfaced due to album re-issues and the band’s 20th Anniversary tour. I remember buying their greatest hits cassette to play in my Fiat Spyder loud and clear for all to hear at the stoplight. In 1986, the Monkees (sans Michael Nesmith) made a stop at the O’Connell Center tucked inside the University of Florida. The audience was mostly women and yes, there were screams.
The world lost Davy Jones in 2012 and most recently in 2019 Peter Tork. I was delighted to see the remaining members decide to tour during a somewhat post-COVID year 2021.
Michael “Nez” Nesmith and Mickey Dolenz performed at Ruth Eckerd Hall on October 13, 2021 with a large support band of seven additional members, including “Coco” Dolenz, Mickey’s sister. Broken into a two set evening with a 20 minute intermission, the band performed a lot of familiar songs like “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and “Listen to the Band.”
Actually, the songs that really resonated with me were the psychedelic “Porpoise Song” and the rousing “Randy Scouse Git” which would have fit in alongside The Kinks and Small Faces. Actually, a lot of the Monkees songs they composed sound very 60s Brit pop, whether intentionally or not, as they were mates with the Beatles and spent some time across the pond. A rarely heard song “St. Matthew”, composed by Nesmith, was a really welcome touch, as well as “Different Drum” which reminded the audience what a good songwriter he is.
The band paid homage to Peter Tork by performing “For Pete’s Sake”, the song that used to air in the show’s credits. I could see a lot of the audience members mouthing the lyrics. Songs from the 2016 album Good Times! seamlessly slipped into the mix. Performed last night were “Birth of an Accidental Hipster” by Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher and “Me and Magdalena” by Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie. When the album came out it was very well-received and sadly the producer Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) succumbed to COVID last year.
Considering the quality of the music, I am sure the mixed-age crowd (teenagers were sitting with grandparents) enjoyed the music and performance last night by two extremely talented and underrated musicians. Very few cell phones were raised in the air. Although I wished to see old videos on a screen, I actually paid attention to every note played–so maybe that was a good thing. Still in a nostalgic mood, I listened to the Monkees in the car on YouTube music while driving home.
Catch the show when it comes to your town. You owe it to yourself.
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