Live Review: The Monkees

April 13, 2016

“Before Justin Bieber, before One Direction, there was The Monkees,” announces Whoopi Goldberg on the projector screen in Hammersmith Apollo. Old TV shows and newsreels follow, building a story of this famous band’s past until the building climaxes in adolescent adoration as Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz walk onto the stage.

In the ‘60s, an American production company brought Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Mike Nesmith together to play the part of an aspiring band for a new TV show – The Monkees. The show followed this group of naïve teenagers who aimed to be as big as The Beatles but never seem to make it. Eventually, the popularity of The Monkees became bigger than the show, and the band fought the production company to take control of the music (that they wrote) and their band name. In the peak of their popularity, their concerts outsold both Rolling Stones and The Beatles and even introduced the world to Jimi Hendrix as a supporting act on their tour.

Throughout musical history, The Monkees continued to influence music, most remarkably – the punk scene. Inspired by their anti-establishment attitude, many bands like Sex Pistols and Run-DMC continued to cover their songs. More recently, Smash Mouth’s cover of “I’m A Believer” found fame with the movie Shrek. Even, though they were notably one of the first manufactured bans, they earned the respect of musicians and fans for their break away from the TV Show to create their own music.

Now, in Hammersmith Apollo, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz are still playing to a vast audience in their 70’s. All their years of fame are visible on the faces of the stars and the crowd. I begin to feel like I’ve recently departed the womb, being surrounded by these life long fans and felt like I hadn’t earned my seat. But soon I joined them in being lost in anticipation of being able to watch the poster boys of their youth rile through some old school hits from the ‘60s and ‘70s.

They begin to play “The Last Train To Clarksville”, which sets the scene of the swinging sixties. The projector screen continues playing clips from The TV show behind them. It’s a fascinating insight into what could be one of the first music videos that influenced the MTV platform. There’s so much colour. It’s as if black and white TV had deprived them of colour so long, they went trigger-happy when it was given to them.

Keeping in with the comedic style of their TV show, the men make jokes in that whole ostentatious American way. Mentioning Paul McCartney, their Jimi Hendrix supporting act moment and teasing each other’s egos. But before long one disappears off stage while the other one continues. It seems a break is needed for both men throughout the set. Though, when on stage, they are as ever present and giving a lot of energy that even someone my age couldn’t handle.

Micky Dolenz appears back on stage in a poncho, ready for a rendition of ‘Randy Scouse Git’. He pounds the drums, never missing a beat just as he does on the projected image of his youth behind him. Their songs roll with the jokes as their set continues, their legacy playing in a backdrop behind them almost like a shadow of their past. Showcasing the time that shaped their present, who they are and what they’ll always be known for. They sing classics like “Daydream Believer”, “Steppin Stone” and “I’m A Believer” to which everyone stands, with a drink in hand. It’s a multifaceted trip down the audience’s childhood too.

Dolenz mixes up the classic “Sugar Sugar” which reminds me of a time Keith Richards jazzed up a Bob Marley track with little success. Peter Tork is then back by his side after his little break, encouraging the audience to clap and sway.

Their 2 hour long set (including an intermission) swiftly comes to a close and the remaining Monkees exit the stage. Tonight was not only an honour but it was an education. The Monkees are more than just a TV show, they’re a band. And one that’s still worth watching.



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