The Monkees | The Monkees Live -The Mike and Micky Show | (Rhino)
4.5 out of 5
With critical opinion once divided between those that dubbed them a guilty pleasure at best and others who dismissed them as little more than a “Pre-Fab Four” at worst, the Monkees never gained their hipness pedigree back in the day.
Indeed it took another 30 years to level the balance between adulation and appreciation. Granted, they were a blatant attempt by corporate hitmakers to cash in on a budding teenage audience with all their fan frenzy back in the mid to late ‘60s. In retrospect however, given a recent flurry of expanded versions of their early albums and the renewed respect accorded them by such bastions of power pop coolness as Fountains of Wayne, Death Cab for Cutie, Squeeze, and others of their ilk, the Monkees have taken on something akin to a revered stature over the past several decades. With the passing of Peter Tork and Davy Jones, that fondness has become all the more precious.
Happily though, The Mike and Micky Show makes no attempt to exploit that cuddly relationship that exists between the Monkees and the Millennials. The chemistry is assured instead through a superb set list consisting not only of their radio standards but deeper cuts and a handful of more recent entries as well. With a crack band providing the backing arrangements that effectively replicate their recordings down to every niche and nuance, all Mike (Nesmith) and Mickey (Dolenz) had to do was pick material that not only notches up the nostalgia factor, but also resonates as a contemporary crop of songs as well. Today’s audiences demand that professionalism and polish , one reason why even the most respected bands with of vintage variety — the Who and the Stones among them — tour with added instrumental embellishment.
Happily then, the new Monkees backing band allows Dolenz and Nesmith to focus on fronting matters courtesy of their vocals — which sound spot on and more empathic than ever — and some casual comic patter that bows to the past without taking themselves and their current incarnation too seriously. With Nesmith’s son Christian, an accomplished artist in his own right, on guitar, Beach Boys’ multi-talker Probyn Gregory and Dolenz’ sister Coco on backing vocals, the eleven piece ensemble shines. Still, for all the hits (“Last Train To Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “I’m a Believer” et. al.), deep cuts as well (“The Porpoise Song,” “Sweet Young Thing” etc.) and recent contributions from the likes of Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller (“Birth of An Accidental Hipster”) and Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard (“Me & Magdalena”), one can’t help but lament the absence of Tork and Jones. For his part, Nesmith, always reticent to rejoin his former comrades on reunion tours, contributes the lions share of the material —having been the band’s most prolific composer back in the day — adding real weight to The Mike and Mickey Show’s proceedings and, at the same time, the best opportunity to reignite some well deserved Monkee Mania.
Boasting a full 25 songs, The Mike and Micky Show offers a riveting revival that gives listeners the feeling of actually being there to witness the revelry. For those who were there in the beginning, memories alone allow it to succeed. Credit the modern Monkees with eliminating any divide between past from present.