Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Here They Come....To Mohegan Sun

A shot from a 1986 performance by the band; photo by Gilda Caserta
If there were any doubts about the staying power of their music, The Monkees dispelled them at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT as they launched into "I'm A Believer" to open the show last Friday night. The crowd (which seemed to include at least three generations of fans) enjoyed a 90 minute set from Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork, backed by a fantastic 8 piece band. Michael Nesmith, who only infrequently participates in these reunions, is sitting out this 45th Anniversary Tour, but was represented by performances of some songs closely associated with him including "Papa Gene's Blues" and "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round." In fact, all of the Monkees got to shine, as each took turns in the spotlight during the show.

A giant video screen to the rear of the stage projected clips from the Emmy-winning 1966-68 NBC TV series, which added to the fun. The band (whose members were originally selected via auditions, and which was created specifically for the series) was always a cross between The Beatles & The Marx Brothers, as they got into comic hijinks and performed songs. As Jones joked during the show: "I got to fall in love twice an episode." They had about a dozen Top 40 hits in their heyday, and even outsold The Beatles & The Rolling Stones in 1967. Top songwriters such as Neil Diamond, Carole King and Harry Nilsson contributed songs for the group to record. Initially, studio musicians played on many of the tracks while the group performed vocals, but by their 3rd album, Headquarters (after a battle with their producers, including mastermind Don Kirshner) the quartet had assumed more control of their music. The group initially broke up in 1970, but has reunited on and off ever since for reunion tours and new recordings, in various configurations.

The setlist mixed the hits with some lesser know cuts, and the excellent band energetically played such songs as "I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone," "Valleri," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," and even "Porpoise Song" from the group's 1968 film, Head. But when the group performed the classic "Last Train To Clarksville" about halfway through the show the crowd really flew to their feet, and started dancing and singing along. The backing musicians truly seemed to enjoy playing with the group, and were outstanding as well. Not only were they supporting the band, they were a part of it, and very well integrated into the show. Tork, in particular, really seemed to enjoy jamming with them.

By the time the group returned to the stage for the encore to perform "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "Listen To The Band" the cries of I love you, Davy! had died down a bit, and Micky's joking farewell of "Good Night, Chicago!" was met with laughter and applause. It was a splendid show, and the guys seemed to enjoy it as much as the audience. This 45th Anniversary Tour started June 3, and winds up later in July. Hopefully, the guys are "coming to your town," and if they are, don't hesitate to check out the show.

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