Concert Review: The Monkees: Good Times
The Monkees: Good Times
Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch, November 29
There might only have been two of the original Monkees on stage in their Good Times concert on Tuesday night, but their first performance in New Zealand was everything their jubilant fans had hoped for.
Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork had a five-piece touring band (including Mike's sister Coco) to back them up, but they also had the entire audience singing along.
The audience was the most fascinating part of the 50th anniversary performance. Male greybeards and silver-tails, with their receding hairlines and expanding waistlines, had partners who matched their demographic. The ushers were worried that there might be ill-feeling over the 30-minute delayed start, but their customers were happy to wait, amiable and chatty on a warm spring evening (Only at the Isaac Theatre Royal do you take selfies of the ceiling!). I'd estimate 90 per cent of those present were born between 1950 and 1953, just the right age to succumb to the newly-assembled Monkees – the pre-fab four – in 1966 (The fact that the four were versatile and talented only emerged later).
I recall, as a young teacher, having to cope with student hysteria because of the fear Mike Nesmith might be drafted for Vietnam. By then, The Monkees had become popular figures with most age groups because their TV series was watched by everyone (Only one channel, remember). This appeal across a wide age range has continued.
Shrewdly, the stage show began with a screening of the TV show's opening credits, a reminder of just how visually entertaining these precursors of music videos were. The first offering to have the audience singing along was Last Train to Clarksville, with its catchy chorus, "Oh no, no, no. Oh no, no, no". A solid wall of highly-amplified sound blasting from the stage was countered with a joyfully singing, clapping and stamping audience blasting everything right back.
Tork complained, quite rightly, that Dolenz was being applauded just for raising his arms. Tork's own rendering of Papa Gene's Blues (with long-neck banjo) led to some great floor-stamping by the crowd. The duo migrated between instruments all evening. Dolenz's performance of his own song Randy Scouse Git, even saw him let loose on a timpani. Their brief account of their early days, when they fought to be allowed to perform their own music, was followed by the beloved For Pete's Sake. The second-half had such crowd-pleasers as (I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone and Daydream Believer (with Tork on keyboard, Dolenz on tambourine and audience on nostalgia).
There were graceful musical tributes to Mike Nesmith and the late Davy Jones, before the finale – a rip-snorting version of I'm a Believer.
"We sang this before Shrek did," noted Dolenz, as the audience rose to dance along.
Whoopi Goldberg got it right when she declared, "Before there was Bieber, there were The Monkees".