As we continue our march through the 21st Century, it is becoming increasingly rare to say you got to see one of the iconic bands from the 1960’s perform live. And even on that note, it is not the full, original Monkees that performed – only two (Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz) were present, with a tight backing band were at this show – a reflection that as time rolls on, having the full line-up for these bands is becoming harder to do as members pass away (when the crowd sang “Daydream Believer”, it was a touching tribute to the recently deceased Peter Tork). Thankfully, Mike and Micky were still there and able to carry the show, and so the audience got to see, in what is likely to be their final tour (certainly their last one to Australia), The Monkees one last time.
The Palaise Theatre was an apt venue for the band. Although an older venue, there was enough space so that everyone could see what was happening on stage, and hear it as well. Despite some curious lighting decisions (potentially errors), the band was well suited to the space and filled it, even when they did an acoustic set. But beyond the technical appropriateness, there was an aesthetic element that added to the venue. The Palaise Theatre is old and grand, but it is definitely starting to show some signs of age. It breathed nostalgia on the night – not a bad thing, but something to take note of. The audience too were a reflection of the length of these musicians careers – although there were plenty of people under 30 (and several under 20), the bulk of the audience were Boomers, coming not to dance and party (as would have been the case 40 or 50 years ago), but to sit down and watch the show. There was some swaying in seats, and plenty of singing from the audience, but it would have been a far cry from the shows of old (and the current happenings at music festivals now).
I will let Nesmith himself describe the state of affairs: “The shows are fun, the songs are good and fun to play, but things are a bit long of tooth now – not that that is a bad thing, but it’s a bit like trying to learn new dance steps. I have had a good time, so does Mick, I think – but there is less of a sharp point these days of television.”
This nostalgia and older nature of the show should not detract from the music or showmanship. Although they were a bit slow moving around the stage, both Nesmith and Dolenz managed to maintain a high level of energy, working off each other, the rest of the band (one member who was Dolenz’s sister), and the audience. Even when they were playing acoustic numbers, they managed to look very alive and enthusiastic, singing and playing their instruments with cautious abandon. It felt good as an audience member to see everyone having fun, and some of the banter clearly showed the “young at heart” character of the two performers.
Also, the songs were great, which helps.
Amazingly, the show featured some new(ish) material. Although the band has been on and off again since the 1970’s, they recently released an album called Good Times, which has a host of songs written by a variety of big names in indie-pop music (such as Oasis and Death Cab for a Cutie), as well as songs from “the vaults” – several which were played. These seemed to be well received, and they fitted well with the mixture of Monkees hits and Dolenz/Nesmith solo works.
Overall, it is definitely a good show. Whilst the wild days are obviously long gone for them, this final hurrah was worthwhile, and it was good that they managed to come down to Australia for the first time in decades for this farewell tour. I will let Nesmith have the final word on the concert: “It’s a big set list. It’s every Monkees hit, material from the vaults, it’s all coming out and if you love The Monkees music, you can’t do better than this. This is the best it has ever sounded to me.”
And sound good it did.