An Evening With The Monkees

Friday 4th September 2015

Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom

The JLTT team has an expression sometimes used – ‘doing a Brian Wilson’. What this means is going on tour with musicians so competent and skilled that they can reproduce much-loved hit singles just as you heard them on the radio AND perform other quality material on demand, never overshadowing the artist name on the ticket. Anyone witnessing the Beach Boy supremo play with his touring group at London’s Royal Festival Hall will know exactly what we mean here.

Supplemented by vintage colour film from Monkees original TV-series days and even commercial adverts from the era, this performance had warmth, favourites, unusual items. Mickey Dolenz and Peter Tork bring five other musicians on to the Eventim stage and they include Coco, Dolenz’ sister on vocals and deft percussion and even alarm clock. Between songs the jokes fly thick and fast between the two original Monkees, they genuinely sound as though they are still great friends and this adds to the flavour of the show. All the songs you’d want to hear – allowing for the sad passing of D Jones – zero pretension, much self-deprecation, fine song explanations ( Dolenz performs ‘Sugar Sugar’ – recorded before The Archies’ version) and stellar playing from all. Not least Tork who rattles out the guitar riffs, spins though the iconic keyboard riffs and even includes my request for ‘Saved By The Blues’, one of the gritty numbers he plays with his r&b aggregate Shoes Suede Blues. For more on that see my chat with Peter on the band, Fred Neil, Hendrix and much more, here on this very site. Monkees fans in their hundreds have already found their way to the piece and thank you all.

Kicking off with a spirited ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ it is clear to all attending that this show will rock…and rock it does. The drummer – not miked – sings the words to virtually all the songs and is the butt of Mickey’s ribbing about paying for Buddy Rich. The onstage rapport and band vibe reminds me of Crosby Stills & Nash – nothing to prove, plenty of memorable music to deliver. ‘Mary Mary’ is of course also a star cut on the second Paul Butterfield album ‘East West’ and gets a punchy shot here from the original recorders. ‘You May Just Be The One’ is a fine song, reminiscent of Gene Clark ; ‘No Time To Rock’ belies its title and thunders along. Lost gem ‘For Pete’s Sake’ is terrific inclusion, like ‘Circle Sky’ it didn’t receive enough recognition first time around. Dolenz relishes the tale of the composition of ‘Randy Scouse Git’ after an evening partying with the ended up as ‘Alternate Title’ and was a Top Five hit, here in England. The crowd laps up ‘I’m A Believer’, the Neil Diamond song that The Monkees took to worldwide success status. The singing along is reasonably tuneful, too. A few vaudeville nods like ‘Your Auntie Grizelda’ and ‘D W Washburn’ had their charm but for us, a storming fuzz-drenched blast through the insistent ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ was the cake’s icing. Could have been Paul Revere & The Raiders! Wasn’t anything all evening that this ensemble couldn’t handle.

Other highlights – the dreamy psych journey of ‘Porpoise Song’, the acoustic interlude embracing ‘Take A Giant Step’ and ‘Midnight Train’.

Tork thinks that ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ was perhaps the best Monkees single. It’s hard to argue with that view tonight. For the audience however, little can beat the sunshine bounce of ‘DayDream Believer’ – and they show it.

Back to the band, let’s name the players : Rich Dart – Drums, Dave Alexander – Keys, John Billings – Bass, Wayne Avers – Guitar ( including a solid Fender 12 string and a vintage Vox ‘coffin’ 6 string)

You can see why this act has lasted, this was an entertaining but above all extremely musical evening that truly rang the changes.

Pete Sargeant

(Thanks Peter T, Peter N, Asher, John B and Kieran W)