The Monkees at University of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Place: University of Buffalo Center for the Arts, Buffalo, New York
Before all the spotlights and the flowers
And now, I follow The Monkees from Cleveland to Buffalo. Some of my comments in this review overlap with the ones from my previous review, and I’ve also written some things there that I’ve left out here, and vice versa; really, these two concerts are stuck together in my mind, and to get the whole picture of my experience, you’d have to read both.
While I was getting ready in the morning, I heard my parents joking that they couldn’t let me go on stage, because I would probably pass out. I was spouting Monkees quotes to my parents all day, but—not being Monkees fans—they just assumed I was being weird (or normal). We stopped at a Friendly’s near the venue before the show, and I asked my mom if she felt like a milkshake. Like a normal person, she said, “Yes”. We saw a girl there wearing a black Monkees shirt.
We arrived at the venue, the University of Buffalo Center for the Arts, just before 7:30 pm. Parking was nice and easy. We went inside, and there were two ladies scanning tickets. They didn’t check bags, which was good for me, a camera smuggler.
In the lobby, there were lots of people wearing Monkees shirts and wool hats, and even some people with sparkly shoes—though that may have just been coincidence. There was a group of four girls wearing wool hats and Monkees t-shirts taking a group picture. I think one shirt said, “Peter Percival Patterson had a pet pig named Porky”, another said, “It’s because I’m short, isn’t it?”, one said, “Save the Texas Prairie Chicken”, and the last said, “You’re the dirty rat that killed my brother!”.
The merchandise line was, as it was on Saturday night, very long, and there was only one guy working at the booth. I bought a tour book, since they sold out in Cleveland before I got there. Someone in line asked me where I got my hat, and I pointed at my mom and said, “She made it!”.
Soon, they started letting people into the auditorium. Our seats were in the second row, right smack dab in the middle. I heard someone say as they sat in their seat, “We’re close enough for them to spit on us!”. On the video screen, they played the “Monstrous Monkee Mash” blooper again, a Kool-Aid commercial, an Antenna TV commercial, a montage to “Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)”, and a mini-documentary about Boyce & Hart to promote the Candy Store Prophets documentary. They didn’t show the Kellogg’s commercials like at Cleveland. They also played some Mike solo songs (I think “Nevada Fighter” and another one), Micky’s new song “Many Years”, and a song that at first seemed to have nothing to do with The Monkees, but then I realized it was a foreign version of “Hard to Believe”.
A man in a suit walked up on the stage and hung out up there for a bit; I think it was Andrew Sandoval (especially since when he left, someone yelled “Andrew!”, and he stopped to talk to them). Just before the show started, I thought I saw Mike’s daughter Jessica on the left side of the stage. She had a very large ponytail.
There’s no place left to go but the show
The band came on stage and did the Monkees medley. The lights dimmed, and soon enough, I could see an unmistakably Micky-shaped silhouette just a few feet in front of me. The announcer said, “Please welcome Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith: The Monkees”, and the spotlight shone on each one in turn.
Now, before we get started, I have to confess: I am a terrible concert go-er. I have been to many concerts, but I am terrible at clapping and singing and dancing and smiling and generally just looking like I’m having a good time. But you know what? This is The Monkees! This is my favourite group of all time! I am in the second row, a few feet away from my favourite musician in the whole wide world (and two other pretty amazing guys, might I add)… so, I decided that I was going to have a good time. And, not only that, I was look like I was having a good time. I was going to… mouth the words! Just like I did in elementary school choir. (This is a big step for me, guys. Let me have this.)
I got out my camera and started snapping away, but I was careful not to snap for too long, lest security think I was taking video (the nerve!). I realized I had forgotten to sing/mouth along, but I finally joined in during the second song, and continued to do so for the rest of the show. Hurray!
My immediate thoughts were, “Holy cow, are we ever close!” and “Holy cow, they are old!” (and while they look it, they certainly don’t act it). My mom commented afterwards that we were almost too close, like we were invading their space. It was a strange feeling, but I got used to it after the first few songs. My other thought was who am I supposed to look at? We were so close you could hardly even see them all at once!
“Welcome to Buffalo!”, Mike said after “Last Train to Clarksville”. “We’re glad you came with us to Buffalo, ’cause we’re playin’ Buffalo tonight, and here you all are!”.
After that was “Papa Gene’s Blues” and “Your Auntie Grizelda”, and Peter sang and danced and goofed around. The video screens still managed to trick me into thinking it was “Sweet Young Thing”, showing the old people romp from the show.
At some point early in the show, someone in the audience yelled out, “I love you, Peter!”. In a deep, growly voice, Mike said something like, “And Peter loves you”.
During “She”, Mike seemed to surprise Micky by yelling “Hey!” into the microphone rather loudly at the appropriate part, and then, the next time, he came in late on the “Hey!”. Lots of Monkees goofy goodness that I didn’t notice the previous night.
Next was “Sweet Young Thing”. In Cleveland, I wasn’t too sure about the new arrangement, but now, I think I can dig it. It’s somehow really different, but then somehow really familiar; I don’t know how to describe it. I didn’t notice if Mike did this the first night, but in Buffalo, he did the “sweet young thing-GAH”s very well, and at least once, he made a hand gesture to emphasize it. Yes, that man knows exactly what he does to us.
Next, Micky introduced “I’m a Believer” and began searching the front rows for a young kid to address. A young woman in front of us waved to Micky. Micky looked at her and said, “Sir, you are a forty-five year old man!”. A little further down the row, he spotted a kid and said, “I want you to know that we did this song long before Shrek!”. Mike said something about “he’s still nine”, but I can’t remember what exactly he said. During the song, the first two times that Micky sang the line, “Then I saw her face”, he was at either side of the stage, and he pointed right at someone in the first few rows. The third time he sang it, he was standing right in front of me, and… he didn’t point at anyone. I was sad. At the end of the song, he said, “Thank you, Buffalo!” and I was very disappointed that he said the right city.
My mom turned to me during “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” and said, “He’s not doing it like in that video”, referring to the ’70s DJBH glam rock version that I had showed her earlier that day. During the line, “When I first met you, girl, you didn’t have no shoes”, Micky went over to Mike and pointed at his sparkly shoes. Mike lifted his foot up and accidentally (?) kicked Micky.
Next up was the “I Wanna Be Free” video, and the audience sat down, and, as far as I can remember, remained sitting until the encore. My back was glad, but I wanted to stand up! In Cleveland, people were right up against the stage! What is wrong with you, Buffalo!? (Are all us Canadians that came over for this show just too polite?)
After the video, Mike and Peter returned and introduced the newly uncovered drum kit, which Mike said was the one from the TV that they drug around to Studio C at RCA. (I wonder though if he was pulling our leg; I hadn’t heard anything about that.) Micky, visibly out of breath, finally appeared and sat down behind the drums—“And here’s the drummer we drug in with us!”.
Micky: “You forget to tell me my dressing room was in Cleveland!”
Mike: “Oh. Couldn’t get a ride?”
Micky: “It was tough. Took awhile to get…”
Mike: “…get somebody to stop?”
Micky: “Two or three stops, and one delayed flight.”
Mike: “I’m tellin’ you, Micky, do not take off the hat. You do that, they’re not gonna stop. The hat looks so good. So good.”
Peter: “And the not hat.”
Peter: “And the not hat. There’s an implication here…”
Mike: “Oh, yeah, right.”
Peter: “…but we’ll just leave it alone.”
When Mike asked if anybody stopped, someone behind me yelled, “I would have stopped!”.
Mike said, “Okay, let me just check my email”, and then he and Peter asked, “You ready, Micky?”, “You good?”. Then Peter said, “Wait, I’m not ready… okay, now I’m ready… wait, no… okay, now I’m ready”. They started into “You Told Me”, but Mike’s guitar wasn’t in tune, so he tuned it. “We tune because we care,” Peter informed us.
After that was “Sunny Girlfriend”, “You Just May Be the One”, and “Mary, Mary”. Between songs, Mike started playing something on his guitar, and then he went to the microphone and said, “I just wrote that!” and smiled gleefully. He did that quite a few times through the show (smiling gleefully, that is), and Mike smiles always make me smile. Peter replied, “All it needs is lyrics and bridge”. “It needs a lyric? Oh, well, there goes that…”, Mike said, then he proceeded to sing:
Where is Micky? Where is Micky?
He’s not back on stage yet
Where is Micky? Where is Micky?
He’s not back on stage yet
Mick’s in Cleveland, Mick’s in Cleveland
Looking for his dressing room
Mick’s in Cleveland, Mick’s in Cleveland
Then Mike and Peter started talking about blum-blums, and Mike asked Peter, “Your blum-blum’s good?” before starting into “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”. After that, I think Micky started talking about how Peter played both the bass and piano parts on the song, and Peter said something like, “It was in different years though”.
Mike played the keyboards for “For Pete’s Sake” and “Early Morning Blues and Greens”, and he goofed around while Peter introduced the song. Mike made an impatient motion with his hands while Peter was talking like come on, let’s go, hurry it up.
Soon, Micky returned to the stage with his tablecloth and kettle drum for “Randy Scouse Git”. Peter took the tablecloth and waved it around and said “Ole!” and then, “You knew I was going to do that”, and then he helped Micky put the tablecloth on. Someone in the audience had yelled, “Take off your hat!” to Micky a few times during the show. Micky took the hat off for a second to get the tablecloth on, and the guy yelled happily. After Micky got the tablecloth on, he started crying about, “The colours!”, and Peter shielded his eyes. Micky did his intro, and mentioned that the song meant “horny Liverpudlian putz”, and someone in the audience yelled, “That’s the best kind!”. Peter flubbed the piano intro a bit, which was funny because the intro sounds like a flub anyway. After the song, a crew member came to take away the tablecloth and drum, and Micky told him to have it cleaned and burned.
Next was the comedy highlight of the evening, “Daily Nightly”. Micky said that Mike had promised to get a Moog synthesizer for the song, and then said that in return, he got the lyrics to the song, written by Mike, printed on 24 karat gold leaf paper (and also since he couldn’t remember the words). Mike started making “uh oh” faces and even did his “oh merciful heavens” pose that he did a lot in the second season of the show. Mike told Micky that he knows that he promised to get a Moog, but… those things are like, as big as… a metaphor for something really, really big. And they cost like a billion dollars. But… he did get a picture of a Moog! “With my dead house plants in the background”, Micky added. But Mike told him not to worry about; he’s got it covered. Micky started into the song, and soon, Mike joined him on the mouth Moog. Mike’s faces were even better up close, but his microphone was in the way. And while we all focus on Mike’s Mooging, Micky did a particularly awesome job on the vocals for this song.
Next up was “Tapioca Tundra”. Micky got out the cowbell, and someone in the audience yelled, “More cowbell!”. Mike replied, “You got it, kid”. I didn’t notice this at the last show, but Micky did the counting bit at the beginning. Mike seemed to have some trouble whistling the intro.
Then into “Goin’ Down”. Micky gave the second verse to an audience member on the far right of the stage. I’m pretty sure she got all the words right (but I myself was deeply jealous and was not paying that much attention).
Next was the Head video, and then Micky returned for “Porpoise Song”. He stood at the front of the stage for the vocal part, and then to the drums for the outro. The band started the outro without him, which I don’t think they did last time. Micky has great drum faces.
Next was the “Daddy’s Song” video. After hearing it the second time, I think Davy’s vocals were sped up, which would explain the higher pitch. (My geeky side thinks they should have used granular synthesis to change the speed without changing the pitch).
Then all three Monkees returned for “Can You Dig It”. Now, at the end of most songs, the audience starts clapping before the song has even ended, but this time, there was a second of silence before the clapping began, and I saw Micky mouth “Ouch!” to Peter.
Next was “As We Go Along”, and though I tried to get a picture when Davy was on the screen (which was a plan I’d thought of the previous night), the spotlights obscured the screen, so it didn’t work out.
Peter introduced the next song by saying something like, “This was from Head”. Mike asked, “From where?”, and Peter said, “A movie by that name”, and Mike said, “Okay”. This doesn’t translate well in text, but it was funny live.
Then Mike, looking at his iPad, which was taped to his microphone stand, said, “Wow! Did you know that the Nigerian finance minister… I think our troubles are over!”. (Hmm, that sounds like it could be the plot of an episode.) Peter walked over and looked at the screen, and then they started into “Circle Sky”. I was all ready to stand up like we did in Cleveland, but… nothing. I’m disappointed in you, Buffalo. They finished the Head set with “Long Title”.
After that, everyone left the stage, and they showed the Davy tribute video. The final clip was from Davy’s screen test, and there was no sound, except some brief laughter at the end. I thought this was a technical glitch at the Cleveland show, but it happened again in Buffalo, so I guess not. It was kind of jarring.
The guys returned to the stage, and Micky introduced the next song, “Daydream Believer”:
“Guess you probably know this one. When we were rehearsing, we knew we had to do this song. It was a huge, huge hit. We discussed who was gonna sing it. Would it be me, or Michael, or Peter, or all three of us? And we, actually, it was Michael that said, you know, ultimately, we can’t sing this song any more; we don’t own it. But you do. You can sing it. Who would like to sing it with me?”
I knew I had very little chance of being picked because I wasn’t in the first row, but I waved my hand anyway because if I didn’t, I knew I would regret it for the rest of my life. There was a little part of me that thought maybe, just maybe… and also a little part of me that listened to the song a couple of times that day to make sure I knew the words just in case. It felt like Micky took a really long time to pick someone, but watching the video now, I can see that he didn’t. He picked a woman named Kristen sitting in the front row. He said, “I saw you all night long; you knew the lyrics to everything”. I was surprised that he didn’t pick the same person that sang “Goin’ Down”, because I thought that’s what he did in Cleveland, and I figured that the “Goin’ Down” bit was a test. Anyway, she came up on stage and led the audience in singing “Daydream Believer”. I think she might not have sung close enough to the mic at times, because I couldn’t always hear her very well, but she knew all the words and did a good job. After the song, Mike smiled and waved at her and gave her a double thumbs up, and I myself was, once again, deeply jealous.
Anyway, I realized that while how they do “Daydream Believer” is nice, it does have a downside, which is everyone who doesn’t get picked to go on stage is disappointed (or at least those of us who are slightly delusional). A few days before the show, I’d seen someone online who wanted to get their young child on stage in Cleveland, but that didn’t happen. There were certainly a lot of other people like me waving at Micky, hoping to be picked, but in the end, only one person is. Oh well.
“Oh, it’s been fun,” Mike said, “Still is”, and they started into “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round”, and then everyone left the stage.
After a minute or so, Mike returned. I could hear Peter saying to Micky something like, “Well, Mike’s out there; I guess we better go too”. They played “Listen to the Band” with Micky introducing the band, and then ended with “Pleasant Valley Sunday”. “If you’re driving home tonight, please take a car,” Peter reminded us, and then they bowed and left the stage.
The set list
- “Last Train to Clarksville”
- “Papa Gene’s Blues”
- “Your Auntie Grizelda”
- “Sweet Young Thing”
- “I’m a Believer”
- “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
- “I Wanna Be Free”
- “You Told Me”
- “Sunny Girlfriend”
- “You Just May Be the One”
- “Mary, Mary”
- “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”
- “For Pete’s Sake”
- “Early Morning Blues and Greens”
- “Randy Scouse Git”
- “Daily Nightly”
- “Tapioca Tundra”
- “Goin’ Down”
- “Porpoise Song (Theme from “Head”)”
- “Daddy’s Song”
- “Can You Dig It?”
- “As We Go Along”
- “Circle Sky”
- “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again?”
- “Daydream Believer”
- “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round?”
- “Listen to the Band”
- “Pleasant Valley Sunday”
After all the spotlights and the flowers
After the show, we sat and waited for a bit since the exits were at the back, and there were a lot of people in front of us. There was a crowd gathered around the stage, but from what I had read, there weren’t supposed to be any meet and greets or anything, so we didn’t wait much longer (and I better not hear about any now!). Getting out of the university took a little while, but the border to Canada was not far away, and we got through very quickly. The border guard asked where we went, and my dad said a concert and shopping.
“Where did you stay?”
“Is that where the concert was?”
“Well, Cleveland and Buffalo. There were two concerts.”
“Oh, The Monkees, or whatever?”
Border guard lady was clearly not impressed, and clearly not a fan of good music. I guess there were a lot of Monkees fans crossing the border that night.
It’s neat the things you notice when you’re up close. Mike looked at his iPad for lyrics quite a bit. Peter, just like he did in the TV show, still licks his lips a lot.
In Cleveland, when I was third row from the back, I thought Mike looked at me once (well… okay, that was probably just wishful thinking), but in Buffalo, I could see that he barely ever made eye contact with anyone in the front rows. I’ve seen professors do this, and I’ve done it myself during presentations since it’s much easier to look at people who are far away. Maybe it’s the whole invasion of space thing. Maybe Mike’s just a little shy.
However, at one point towards the end of the show when we were standing up, Mike pointed to at someone on my right and said/mouthed something. After the show, my mom—who was standing to my right—excitedly told me that Mike pointed at her and said, “I like your purple shirt”. Now, a couple of years ago, my mom also claimed that Pete Townshend jumped up and down and waved at her when she was standing at the top of the stairs in a gigantic stadium, so maybe she’s just a little delusional. I’d love to see a video of this moment, but I don’t remember when it happened.
After the concert, I felt sad. It was time to go back to real life. I was also sad because I know I will probably never get to see The Monkees in concert again. Now, I also thought last year’s tour would be the last, so you never know, but realistically, these things will just become less and less likely. I was also upset about how bad I am at being appreciative; I was so lucky to go to not only one, but two concerts, and to be in the second row for one, and I just felt like I wasn’t excited enough. I was also upset that I wasn’t upset; I wanted to want to cry during the concert, but I couldn’t. I guess I’m just not very good at showing emotion. Thanks for causing all this inner reflection, Monkees.
I was, however, very pleased with how my pictures came out. And no one ever said a thing about my camera or anyone else’s cameras that I could see.
After the first show, I thought about what I would have changed in the set list. One of my favourite Headquarters songs is “No Time”, and I would have loved to see them do that, especially if they each did a verse like they’ve done on past tours. “All of Your Toys” is another good Headquarters era song, though they did both of these songs on the tour last year. I think “Nine Times Blue” would have been nice if they did it kind of like on The Johnny Cash Show. There were only three songs from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, LTD., which I think is one of their best, if not best, album; I might have swapped “Hangin’ ’Round” for “The Door Into Summer” (or “Salesman” or “Love is Only Sleeping”, but that’s only because I like those songs and not because I think they would work well live). I would have swapped “Papa Gene’s Blues” for “Good Clean Fun” maybe too, even though they were on completely different albums. I’m going to say swap “Mary, Mary” for “Midnight Train”, but only because I really like Micky and Coco singing together. I’m not a big fan of “Words”, but it would be nice to get the alternating Micky/Peter vocals.
A few months ago, The Monkees website had a form to fill out for what songs you wanted them to play on the tour. Sixteen of the twenty-five songs I picked were played, but then I also tried to pick ones I thought they actually would play, and not just my favourites. I also snuck “Steam Engine” and “Down the Highway (Michigan Blackhawk)” in there, since while I know there is no chance they would ever be played, I do adore those songs.
I read somewhere online before the concerts about Mike and Micky practicing the harmonies on some song. During the concert, however, I found I really only heard whoever was singing lead. But at least the non-Monkee singers weren’t louder than the lead singers, which is what seemed to happen last year.
As for Peter’s songs, I’m just not a fan of “Your Auntie Grizelda”, though I suppose it is the most well-known song with him singing lead. I would much prefer if he did “Tear the Top Right off My Head” or even “Come on In”, but I was happy with all his other songs, especially “Early Morning Blues and Greens”. I think he’s done “Higher and Higher” on Monkees tours before too, and I certainly wouldn’t have minded that song either. (And if we’re going to give each Monkee a solo song, I’m going to say “Since I Fell for You” for Micky and “Silver Moon” for Mike (which is not nearly my favourite of his solo stuff, but I think it could work in a Monkees show)).
I liked that they generally played the songs in the order they were released. I can see why they wouldn’t do anything from Pool it!, but something from Justus might have been nice. Then again, I’m not really a fan of that album, except for “It’s Not Too Late”, and I can’t imagine anyone but Davy singing that song.
I’m surprised they didn’t do “Sometime in the Morning”, especially considering Micky has released three versions of that song on has last two albums.
If I could change only one song on the set though, I would have had them do “Listen to the Band” like in 33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee (but not the last thirty minutes of the song). Mike starts on the guitar and vocals, and then Micky and Peter come in, and then the full band… that would have been awesome.
Overall, the songs choices were great. They had all the big hits—“Clarksville”, “I’m a Believer”, and “Daydream Believer”—and then some very obscure songs—like “Daily Nightly”, “Tapioca Tundra”, and “Early Morning Blues and Greens”. I really liked the Headquarters set, and it was nice to get all of the songs from Head. The distribution of lead vocals was perfect. I must admit that I didn’t miss Davy’s love songs like “Valleri” and “It’s Nice to Be with You”, but I did miss his fun songs, like “She Hangs Out” and “Cuddly Toy”.
I continued to listen to my Monkees playlist on my iPod for a few days after the concerts, and somehow, the songs sound more real, more alive now. I think about how I was sad immediately after the concerts, but re-watching the videos, I’m feeling really happy about the whole thing. It was a great experience, and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to see them.