Monkees concert at Uptown showcases group’s solid gold past, diverse music evolution

06/05/2014 11:20 AM

Wednesday’s show at the Uptown Theater was a revival in every sense of the word.

Backed by a five-piece band and two backup singers, the three living members of the Monkees spent two hours resurrecting the joyous sounds and madcap sights of their heyday and remembering the one who was not there.

This version of the Monkees — Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith — has been touring for nearly two years. Their reunion followed the unexpected death of Davy Jones in 2012. Before rejoining Dolenz and Tork last year, Nesmith had toured only once with the Monkees over several decades.

Wednesday night, they treated a crowd of more than 700 to a panoramic tour of the Monkees’ first six studio albums, from “The Monkees,” released in 1966, to the soundtrack to the film “Head,” released in 1968. In the span of two years, the band’s sound evolved dramatically, which was evident in a set list that comprised 30 songs.

They opened with two songs from the debut album: “Last Train to Clarksville,” the Monkees’ first single, and then “Papa Gene’s Blues,” one of several Nesmith gems that made the set list.

Throughout the concert, a screen behind the band broadcast the official videos filmed for each song, many of them for “The Monkees” TV series. There were also several interludes that featured clips and outtakes from the show and other novel moments, like Nesmith’s famous skit with Frank Zappa. In each interlude, Jones was featured, sometimes prominently.

The backup singers fortified the vocals on several songs, but for the most part, Dolenz, 69; Nesmith, 71; and Tork, 72, handled their duties capably. Dolenz’s scatting during “Randy Scouse Git” and “I’m Down” were impressive. And Tork showed off his multi-instrumental skills, playing rhythm and lead guitar, slide guitar, banjo, keyboards and bass.

The crowd showered the band with applause and sing-alongs all night, even during some of the deep-cut selections, like “Sweet Young Thing,” “The Door Into Summer” and the cosmic-country tune “Sunny Girlfriend,” another Nesmith classic.

The hits and best-known songs generated the biggest ovations: “I’m A Believer,” “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “She,” “Words” and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” Most were performed close to the way they were recorded, but one or two were recast, like “Mary, Mary,” which was given a light gospel/soul slant.

The show took on a different mood as the set list moved into the later albums, from a time when the band was exerting more control over what it recorded. The three tracks they played from the “Head” soundtrack epitomized that: “Porpoise Song,” a lovely, dreamy acid-washed ballad; and two Tork songs, “Circle Sky” and “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?”

The show closed with two of the band’s more beloved tunes: “Daydream Believer,” one of Jones’ signature songs, which the band turned over to the crowd. The sing-along was thunderous. They closed with “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which stirred yet another boisterous response.

Amid all the reminiscing and nostalgia emerged a deeper appreciation for the Monkees’ catalog, which is filled with tunes from great songwriters, including Nesmith; and the realization that as their time came to a close, they’d evolved into something more substantial than a novelty, more than just four guys playing prefab roles in a hit TV show.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to tfinn@kcstar.com.

SET LIST

Last Train to Clarksville; Papa Gene’s Blues; Your Auntie Grizelda; The Kind of Girl I Could Love; She; 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; Shades of Gray; Randy Scouse Git; For Pete’s Sake; No Time; The Door Into Summer; Words; Tapioca Tundra; Goin’ Down; Porpoise Song; Can You Dig It?; Circle Sky; As We Go Along; Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?; What Am I Doing Hanging Around; Daydream Believer. Encore: Listen to the Band; Pleasant Valley Sunday.

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