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Despite the absence of Davy Jones and Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork managed to put on an outstanding two-hour performance as The Monkees at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Friday night, March 27.

Some of the fans in attendance were in their teens during The Monkees’ rise to fame in the ’60s—but The Monkees have a multigenerational audience, and a good percentage of the crowd consisted of younger folks.

Davy Jones died in 2012, and Michael Nesmith decided not to take part in the current Monkees tour, so Dolenz and Tork were left to carry the show. Before The Monkees took the stage, the video wall in the background played an intro that included footage of the television show, as well as modern-culture references to the group, including clips of the group’s music playing on television shows such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men. Also included: Tork’s cameo on one show during which a fan told him he had a Monkees lunchbox. Tork’s reply: “We never made any money on those things.”

Tork and Dolenz took the stage, and they wasted no time diving into the classics, opening with “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Your Auntie Grizelda” and “She.” Micky Dolenz’s vocals on “She” were almost opera-quality—his vocal range is still intact. The song of the night was “Mary, Mary”; Dolenz and Tork couldn’t have performed it better, and the backing band handled its duties nicely.

Other highlights included Tork’s cover of Tadg Galleran’s “Even White Boys Get the Blues,” and Micky Dolenz’s performance of “Randy Scouse Git,” which he said was about his experiences in the United Kingdom. He joked, “I was told I had a good time.”

The two told a story about how The Monkees were offered “Sugar, Sugar,” which went on to be performed by The Archies; they said they rejected the song in protest for more creative control—and the two then proceeded to perform a slow version of the song. They also performed their mid-1980s hit, “That Was Then, This Is Now,” while showing clips of various periods through their history.

Michael Nesmith was referenced in between numbers at one point, mentioned as their “sometimes partner.” They also paid tribute to the late Davy Jones at the end of the show with “Daydream Believer,” performing as a video played showing Jones dancing by himself with a psychedelic background.  

Before ending their excellent two-hour show with “I’m a Believer,” Micky Dolenz told the audience to go home and tell the “small children” that he sang the tune long before Shrek did.

Scroll down to see more images from the show, from photographer Kevin Fitzgerald.

Setlist

  • Last Train to Clarksville
  • Your Auntie Grizelda
  • She
  • Mary, Mary
  • The Girl I Knew Somewhere
  • I’ll Be Back Upon My Feet
  • For Pete’s Sake
  • Randy Scouse Git
  • Tear the Top Right off My Head
  • Take a Giant Step
  • Sometime in the Morning
  • Papa Gene’s Blues
  • I’ll Spend My Life With You
  • Cuddly Toy
  • DW Washburn
  • No Time
  • Words
  • Low Down
  • Can You Dig It
  • Sugar, Sugar
  • Even White Boys Get the Blues
  • Do I Have to Do This All Over Again
  • That Was Then, This Is Now
  • Daydream Believer
  • Listen to the Band
  • I’m Not Your Stepping Stone
  • Pleasant Valley Sunday
  • I’m a Believer
Published in Reviews

The Monkees were originally a fake band made up for a TV show—but before they knew it, the members were both television stars and pop music idols.

Almost 50 years later, The Monkees are still performing, and on Friday, March 27, members Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz will be performing at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.

The Monkees first aired in 1966. The vision of Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Tork and Dolenz as a struggling rock band was inspired by the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night film. During a recent phone interview, Dolenz discussed the hectic schedule the band members faced when the show went on the air.

“Oh boy, fortunately I was only about 21 years old at the time,” Dolenz said with a laugh. “I had a lot of energy, but I’m not sure I could do it these days. It was intense. I had already been in the business for 10 years at that point, and I had a series as a kid, so I was familiar with the process. Those were long days filming a 30-minute sitcom, 10 to 12 hours sometimes. Then I had to go into the studio, and sometimes, I sang two or three lead vocals in one night—and they needed so much material for the show. During the weekends, we’d be rehearsing for the tour. Those couple of years were pretty intense.”

While The Monkees came together as a result of TV producers’ casting, Dolenz said it wasn’t hard to work with the other members.

“I think it’s easier to get along, because you show up one day, and it’s more formal,” he said. “It’s, ‘Hi, my name is Micky, and this is Michael, and you guys are going to be cast in a TV show. Your first call is at 8:30 in the morning, and in wardrobe by 9.’ In that sense, it’s a lot easier, because you start out in square one, and it’s sort of new.

“After years and years of being together, lots of things can happen, and you hear about that all the time—(like) that sort of feud between a couple of actors on Star Trek. … I can’t speak for the other guys, but I always approached it as I was an actor/singer/entertainer, and I was cast into a show, much like I’ve been cast into musicals recently. I played the wacky drummer on the television show, and The Monkees was an imaginary group. It really didn’t exist. … We didn’t all live in a beach house together.”

In 1967, The Monkees’ members won their creative freedom and began to write their own material.

“We had the control, and sometimes, I think we didn’t know what to do with it, but the sessions were a lot of fun and intense, because there was a lot riding on it,” Dolenz said. “I just remember loving being more and more involved in it. But it was a lot tougher, and it meant a whole lot more responsibility, but I still remember it being a lot of fun, and being more intimately involved in the process.”

One rather amusing story: The Monkees once had Jimi Hendrix on tour as the opening act. Monkees fans were not impressed with Hendrix at all, and Hendrix eventually left the tour, because he was finally seeing success on his own.

“It was pretty obvious back then what he would become. It was also pretty obvious what an incredible talent he was,” Dolenz said. “I had seen him at the Monterey Pop Festival, and I had suggested to the producers that they look at him as an opening act, because he was very theatrical, and that was a persona he was portraying onstage. I remember just seeing him at Monterey, thinking, ‘Now that’s a great act!’”

One of the more fascinating moments for The Monkees came when they were offered the chance to make a full-length film, which went on to become Head. The film was produced by Jack Nicholson and directed by Bob Rafelson; it had no plot and featured strange sequences with each of the members. The film was not only a flop; it alienated many Monkees fans. The film has since gained a cult following and was released in 2010 by the Criterion Collection as part of the America Lost and Found: The BBS Story box set.

“You always hope that something will be successful, but in retrospect, it probably wasn’t the kind of movie the fans were expecting,” Dolenz recalled. “But we had made a conscious choice. The consensus was we didn’t want to do a 90-minute version of the show, which commercially would have been the correct thing to do. At the time, the attitide was we wanted to stretch our wings a bit and do things and say things we weren’t able to do on the television show … and when you do a film, that’s not a problem. We all wanted to make a statement and do something kind of crazy, and we certainly did. I love it, and I’ve always thought it’s a great movie.”

The Monkees have been off and on since their initial split in 1971. In the mid-’80s, MTV ran a marathon of The Monkees TV show that introduced the band to a new generation of fans. During the mid-’90s, the group had a cameo in The Brady Bunch Movie. In 2010, the Monkees reunited again—and shortly after a reunion tour, Davy Jones passed away due to a heart attack, in 2012. Shortly thereafter, Michael Nesmith, who was hesitant to take part in past reunions, finally agreed to appear with the other members. While Tork and Dolenz are the only members performing on this tour, Dolenz said the door is always open for Nesmith.

“Frankly, my understanding is he’s writing a new book and has since decided he really wants to focus on that,” Dolenz said. “He has written a couple of books in the past, and Mike has drifted in and out through the years, but he’s always welcome. He’s a little bit like Neil Young with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.”

The Monkees will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $29 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

It’s March … so we all know what’s comin’, weather-wise. We strongly recommend getting out and enjoying some fantastic events before the broiler gets turned on.

The McCallum Theatre’s schedule is full of music events in March. While Johnny Mathis’ March 7 and 8 performances are sold out, here are some other shows to consider: At 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, singer-songwriter Don McLean will be stopping by. McLean wrote the 1971 hit single “American Pie,” for which he’s widely known; however, he’s written many other great songs, too. After catching his performance at Stagecoach last year, I can say he’s worth seeing. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang will be performing. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great stuff going on in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge will play. Etheridge won an Academy Award for her song “I Need to Wake Up,” for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be stopping by. Ne-Yo has won multiple Grammy Awards; this is one you don’t want to miss. Tickets are $49 to $109. I was very excited when I heard about the next event … but there’s a twist: At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, ’60s pop group The Monkees will perform. Here’s the twist: The show is slated to include only Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Michael Nesmith, with whom Tork and Dolenz reunited with after the death of Davy Jones in 2012, will for some reason not be taking part in this show, barring a change in plans. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple can’t-miss shows scheduled, too. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, comedian Kathy Griffin will be returning to The Show for what should be a very funny performance. After a successful run with her reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Griffin is still going strong. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, the ’90s-swing-revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will take the stage. If you don’t remember, swing music enjoyed a very brief comeback in the decade thanks to acts such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has continued on successfully since then. Tickets are $40 to $70. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 had a strong February—and that strength continues into March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, you’ll be happy to find a night of “country music without prejudice” with Big and Rich and special guest Cowboy Troy (pictured above right). During the ‘MERICA! years of the previous decade, Kenny Alphin and John Rich rode the charts, and also had several successful collaborations with Cowboy Troy, an African-American artist who does rap country music. Tickets are $80 to $100. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, plus-size comedian Ralphie May will be performing. May was the runner up on the first season of Last Comic Standing. He was also a contestant on Celebrity Fit Club. Tickets are $25 to $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one event in March that leads to this question: Are you ready to rock? OK, just joking: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 13, Kenny G (pictured below) will be stopping by. That’s right: The smooth-jazz sax man will be performing here! Despite harsh criticism from some of bop-jazz’ notable musicians, Kenny G has captivated audiences while selling millions of records around the world. Haters gonna hate! Tickets are $60 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will host some amazing musicians in March. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Dave Catching and Rancho de la Luna will be taking over Pappy’s with performances by Earthlings?, Dinola and Rancho de la Lunatics. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, there will be a much-anticipated performance by Gang of Four. The English post-punk outfit just released a new album. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

Copa has several interesting events booked for March. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, Copa will be hosting performances by actress Molly Ringwald. Actually, she’s more than just an actress: Ringwald is also a decent vocal jazz singer! Her 2013 album Except Sometimes included a jazz-style cover of the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from her ’80s film The Breakfast Club. Tickets are $45 to $75. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomps.com.

Be sure to watch the websites and social-media presences of venues not listed here for newly announced events. Have a great March, everyone!

Published in Previews