Trust me on this, I’ve seen my share. The worst maybe was a Guess Who show at the Uptown years ago with only the lowly bass player remaining from the original cast. For the record, it wasn’t my show – nor did I buy a ticket – I was consulting on promotions for a former Uptown Theater owner. Otherwise, no way would I have been there.
To call the TV show born band The Monkees a super group would be a gross exaggeration. That said, a combination of widespread exposure on a popular television sitcom (that ran for two years starting in 1967) and a string of – let’s call it, seven hit singles – elevated the fatuous foursome to dizzying heights that many would categorize as iconic.
Especially Baby Boomers transitioning through their teens and 20s in the late 1960s as well as subsequent watchers of the show’s ubiquitous reruns.
All of which made for a packed house – and a seated show – last week at the Uptown.
Before I pass along my observations, let me make it clear, this isn’t a review.
Come to think of it, neither was the column I read in the newspaper though it was labeled as such. Otherwise, readers might have learned how deceased Monkees tambourine player / vocalist Davy Jones was missed most. Like on the band’s final No. 1 hit song, Daydream Believer. Or they might have gotten a far more specific critique of the 70-ish group’s singing abilities, musicianship and stage presence.
Here’s what I don’t get:
As I listened to the Monkees 11 song Greatest Hits album on my way back from this year’s Wakarusa Festival in Arkansas, it struck me; filler videos aside, the group was touring with a two hour stage show. Yet when you add up the playing times on the band’s hits, it barely hits 30 minutes with a little over 11 minutes of the album composed of what many might describe as borderline or “filler.”
Now think about it.
The Monkees stretched out less than 20 minutes playing only seven of the band’s hits in a 120 minute concert.
Glimpsing at the band’s set list eight songs in (which included just three hits if you count a Paul Revere and the Raiders cover)), I calculated that with 18 mostly obscure non hits coming up, I had time to walk to Westport for a quick bite before returning for the final four songs (that included just two hits, Daydream Believer and Pleasant Valley Sunday).
Which raises the question of why the band didn’t perform its Monkee’s Theme song and the Neil Diamond penned, Davy Jones sung No. 1 hit, A Little Bit Me, A little Bit You.
Did I mention this wasn’t a review?
Allow me to tell you though that the mostly oldster crowd – with a sprinkling of kids and grand kids – lapped it up. And even though there were so many somewhat unfamiliar and/or unimportant songs, all in it was a very comfortable, easy-on-the-ears show. Unlike the songs many aging rock acts force their fans to choke down when all they really want to hear are the older hits.
A lifetime ago I promoted an oldies show featuring the Turtles, Grass Roots, Buckinghams and Gary Lewis and the Playboys. It was kind of a training wheels experience before I went on to promote and produce mostly alternative rock acts for seven years with bands like They Might Be Giants, The Pixies, Soul Asylum, Goo Goo Dolls and the like.
And here’s what made the Happy Together Tour work back then.
For starters the artists were barely 40 years old instead of 70 or dead.
Equally importantly, the bands played very short sets concentrating on their hits (which outside of the Turtles were fairly few) allowing the show unfolded at a rapid pace with no set changes.
Check out the songs on the Happy Together tour album:
1. Happy Together – Turtles
2. She’d Rather Be With Me – Turtles
3. Elenore – Turtles
4. You Showed Me – Turtles
5. It Ain’t Me Babe – Turtles
6. This Diamond King – Gary Lewis & The Playboys
7. Everybody Loves A Clown – Gary Lewis & The Playboys
8. Count Me In – Gary Lewis & The Playboys
1. Midnight Confessions – Grass Roots
2. Let’s Live For Today – Grass Roots
3. Sooner Or Later – Grass Roots
4. Two Divided By Love – Grass Roots
5. Kind Of A Drag – Buckinghams
6. Don’t You Care – Buckinghams
7. Susan – Buckinghams
8. Hey Baby They’re Playing Our Song – Buckinghams
Get the picture?
Together the four bands had like 16 bonafide hits – more than double that of the Monkees – and the show sped by at lightning speed with the odd cover thrown in for good measure.
Was a good time had by pretty much all at last week’s Monkees concert? Clearly.
Look, the Monkees will always be the Monkees – four cute kids that millions of Americans grew up watching and listening to – or will they? Davy Jones (who died in 2012) was definitely missed.
As were Jones’ bandmate’s 22 year-old countenances – frozen in time for all time in Rerun-ville – but cruelly obliterated by the 2014 tour.
Didn’t Frank Sinatra kinda always look old?