The Monkees used to consist of Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Davy Jones, but the quartet is now unfortunately down to two members with Dolenz and Nesmith carrying on the sound of the ‘60s. The band that outsold The Beatles in 1967 is back to show their flawless stage presence that can get anyone moving. Following the original end of their musical journey back in 1971, we got a handful of reunions and remastered releases, but none of them matched the scale of the latest The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show. Recording during their 2019 tour shortly after the death of Tork, this release is nothing short of the fun and sentimental sound to be expected from the band.
Opening with the classic “Last Train To Clarksville,” the hit-making band delivered the sonic stability like never before. This time around the audience is incredibly quiet while taking in every note emitted from the stage, making it easy to forget that this is, in fact, a live recording. Even with full awareness of the radiating Monkees sound, now and again the hints of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones are heard. “Sunny Girlfriend” is basically the band’s version of “She’s A Rainbow”. The feel-good song is the perfect mixture of lyrics and instruments sung about the girl that “operates her own sunshine factory of painting smiles on dolls & then on me”. Unsurprisingly, the lyrics ring true as it is almost impossible to listen to the song without letting your pearly whites shine ever so often.
The release shows the full spectrum of The Monkees’ abilities. After all, this is the band that often got criticized for their lack of writing and instrumental involvement. Early on into the live recording, as “Mary, Mary” delivers a vivid distinction between the two voices of Mike and Micky, the different tones pick up in pace with each beat. Not only that, almost as if showing off, they transmit their musical capabilities in “For Pete’s Sake,” the song written by Peter Tork for their third album Headquarters. The track pays a lovely tribute to the hippies of the time while carrying a timeless message that is just as applicable today with lyrics “we must be what we’re goin’ to be and what we have to be is free”. Dolenz and Nesmith do not fail to honor Tork and Jones. “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” is one of the rare songs to be originally performed by Davy Jones, but now sung by Micky, that carries a joyfully indifferent feel about an incredibly ordinary situation.
In an almost unexplainable sense, the 25-song release offers the band’s old sound, but with a contemporary devotion, as done in “St. Matthew”. The new level of liveliness is evident from the first notes as if all four of the original members are present on the stage. Maybe it is due to the applause that becomes louder and louder or those arpeggio riffs everyone has grown accustomed to. The same can be said about “Pleasant Valley Sunday”. Performed by Dolenz, it is the perfect classic for the sunny summer day.
Being one of the original boy bands to exist, The Monkees even include a more delicate rhythm with “Tapioca Tundra.” The heightened melodic nature feels like an intermission among the pop-classics, as the attentive tune is built on the soothing percussions and detailed string. The two vocal juxtapositions of Nesmith and Dolenz are rarely heard together, but then they perform “Me & Magdalena” and while both voices are understood individually, they are perceived as one. The beautify of it is in the different tones of the performers, delivered through the mixture of raspiness and clearness. It is perhaps one of the simpler arrangements on the recording, but it is also the one exhaling the most pleasant warmth.
The band saves a good deal of the action for the last few songs, that’s when their stage presence is truly felt as the crowd moves to the rhythm. Not to say it has been an easy ride up to this point. The Monkees released so many stand-out tracks that it is almost impossible to dismiss any single song on the album, but the true hits come in the very end. “Daydream Believer”, to be followed by “Listen To The Band” and closing with “I’m A Believer” is a 10-minute grand sing-along, the autograph of the ‘60s, packed with raindrop-like piano and the classic guitar riffs.
While the title carries the names of the two original members, all four can be heard at one point in The Monkees Live – The Mike & Micky Show. This is a journey through their music that many have grown to love. For some it’s a nostalgic trip, for others it’s a chance to get a ‘one of a kind’ experience, but for The Monkees, it’s their life that they keep on sharing.