By Ken Sharp
Christened the “pre-fab” four, in 1966 The Monkees rocketed to super stardom
in the mid ‘60s with the knockout combination of a hit TV show bolstered by a string of hit records and studio album. Like a rock and roll Pinocchio that turned into a real rock band, The Monkees legacy as consummate pop music makers continues to make its mark with each successive generation. On November 14th, inside LA’s Greek Theater, that cross generational cotillion of fans, young and baby boomers alike were in full force for the last date of "The Monkees Farewell Tour: Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz."
Unlike the Monkees tours particulary of the late '80s and '90s, this one relies less on comedic hijinx and shines the spotlight on the group’s criminally underrated deep catalog of pop jewels. Not a mere greatest hits set, this year’s tour draws generously from the group’s signature hits ("Last Train to Clarksville," "I’m a Believer," "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Daydream Believer") alongside deep cuts ("Good Clean Fun," "Porpoise Song," "As We Go Along," "Love Is Only Sleeping," "While I Cry," "Sunny Girlfriend," "St. Matthew" and from the band’s last studio album, "Good Times" with "Birth of an Accidental Hipster," a trippy psych rock meets vaudeville flavored track penned by Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame.
The band’s surviving members, Micky Dolenz and Mike Nesmith share a wonderful chemistry and vocal blend and also the occasional comedic wisecrack. Dolenz, one of pop music’s greatest voices remains a marvel, his richly layered vocal prowess particularly shined on an elegant stripped down rendering of their psychedelic masterpiece, "Porpoise Song" and an exquisite reading of "As We Go Along" from the Monkees cult film, Head, (both co-written by Carole King),. Other highlights included "For Pete's Sake," (the theme song for the second season of The Monkees TV show), "You Just May Be The One," "Tapioca Tundra," "Randy Scouse Git," "The Girl I Knew Somewhere," and the jazz flavored “Goin' Down.” For Michael Nesmith, with so many of his songs a part of the show, the concert served as fitting testament to his wonderfully emotive and rich songwriting talents. Seemingly at peace with the Monkees legacy, onstage in fine voice, he reveled in the tremendous fan reaction, glowing with happiness and in turn stepping up when singing lead vocals lending the material a stately grace and elegance.
Making this show even more remarkable was the group's stellar backing band who perfectly capture the essence of the band’s music with striking authenticity and pure pop power. New recruit guitarist Emeen Zarookian was particularly impressive and deserves special mention; for this writer he was the backing band’s MVP, whether laying down solid rhythm or peeling off period era flavored licks that would make the Wrecking Crew session players who lent their musical stylings on the original recordings nod in respectful approval.
Closing the show and their tenure as a band with the Neil Diamond penned smash hit, "I'm A Believer," the joyous positivity of the Monkees legacy as a formidable band and pop culture icons, too often routinely derided by snotty critics, has and will continue to endure. If this is indeed the Monkees last stand, this impressive showing at The Greek Theater is a mighty fine way for them to draw the curtain on a magical career.