If you are reading this review there is a very big chance you might have been, like me, lying down in front of the TV watching the shenanigans and mischief of The Monkees all those years ago while tapping your toes to their pop beats on their sitcom show.
They were the original boy band and the American answer to the Beatles. However, they never quite reached their heights, but they certainly did have their day in the sun. Many of their songs are wrapped in our youth but over the years we have enjoyed plenty of sing-alongs to The Monkees, most likely at 40ths and weddings over the years.
Original members Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Davey Jones made up the quartet, but the Town Hall show only had the two former members, given the early deaths of both Peter and Davy. So it was with a little scepticism and fear I wondered how the two Ms would pull off the evening.
The eight-piece band, with the stars of the night, sauntered onto stage, welcomed everyone and shared a little banter, before kicking off with Good Clean Fun, Last Train to Clarkesville and Sunny Girlfriend.
The Auckland Town Hall is a great setting for any band and, with the minimal lighting and red haze draped over the organ pipes, the nearly packed venue immediately got into the night with gusto and foot tapping aplenty.
The sound was good even if sometimes the vocals were a little muddy. The two Ms seemed to be enjoying the gig with plenty of chats between tracks and each sharing the limelight. That said it was a little strange seeing both sneaking off stage on a number of occasions, without any explanation. I guess if anyone in the crowd had to get through nearly 30 songs on the night, we’d probably welcome a break or two along the way too.
The night was made up of two sessions and there was a good mixture of songs, from their early days along with some numbers from Mike Nesmith, which included his biggest selling single Rio. It sounded really quite good with the band behind him and I’m sure it got both him and the audience reminiscing about days gone past.
The night also reminded us of all the great artists who wrote a number of their songs and biggest hits. These included Neil Diamond, Carol King, Neil Sedaka, and more latterly, off their 2016 album Good Times, Andy Partridge (XTC), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) Paul Weller, and Noel Gallagher, of which many were played during the evening.
Nesmith’s influence of soft country, which he has carried on a number of his solo albums, was a strong overlay on many of the tracks, somewhat taking away just a little of the jangly 60s sound that I was hoping for.
There was also a nice acoustic session to kick off the second half of the show, with both Pap Gene’s Blues and Randy Scouse Git hitting just the right note and sitting comfortably in both Micky and Mike’s vocal range.
A nod has to go out to the backing band as well. They were tight and really beefed up The Monkees’ sound with some great keys, guitars, and backing singers doing a wonderful job during the course of the show.
Heading down the home straight things really picked up with the thigh-slapping Sweet Young Thing, and one of the best of the night (I’m Not Your) Steppin Stone. This had the beat for the go-go dancers in the crowd (well there was one) and could have easily been slipped into any Austin Powers movie, very groovy indeed.
Listen To The Band started to get the punters really rocking in their seats and then of course Day Dream Believer put the party into overdrive, with the whole audience assisting, almost as a choir of sorts, to the Neil Diamond classic. I must admit it had me singing along as well: it’s one of the best all-time feel-good songs ever.
The night had to end with I’m A Believer, which finally got most of the audience out of their seats for the first time and shook the old Town Hall’s foundations just a little. It’s a great track and the band and stars of the night dialled back the years to make it sound as fresh as the day they recorded it.
While not always hitting their mark, Mike and Micky delivered exactly what the audience came for and then some. The crowd was reminded of how good The Monkees was in their heyday, and it was a lovely trip down their nostalgic lane.