The Monkees at Casino Rama, Orillia, ON on April 25, 2015

Date:
Place: Casino Rama, Orillia, Ontario

The backstory

Off we go, on yet another Monkees road trip. It’s about a two hour drive from where we live up to Casino Rama. I hate going up there for concerts; I feel like if you’re going to come play in Ontario, you should come play where people actually live, you know? Luckily though, it’s always turned out to be an especially entertaining show every time we’ve made the trek up north—and this concert was no exception.

My mom and I were going to see the show while my dad went to the casino. He joked with us on the drive up about how he bets Micky is going to tell us about all their great songwriters and how they sang “I’m a Believer” before Shrek. (As you can probably tell, he’s seen the Monkees a few times already.)

I had bought two tickets back in January during the presale, but I got nervous and accidentally selected only one ticket instead of two, so I had to go back and buy another one, which meant we would be sitting in two different sections. The night before the concert, we bought two tickets on a ticket reseller website for about $15 each—and they were one row closer than my $50 tickets.

We stopped at a Swiss Chalet for dinner. I was wearing my Monkees shirt, and a woman came up to our table and asked if we were going to the show.

The merch booth had what I would guess were mostly items from the 2014 tour with Mike.

  • Grey t-shirt with Monkees logo
  • Grey t-shirt with cartoon Micky, Peter, and Mike
  • Pink shirt with Monkees logo
  • Pink t-shirt with cartoon Micky, Peter, and Mike
  • Beige/olive-ish baseball hat with Monkees logo
  • Pack of four Monkees buttons (Love is the ultimate trip, Save the Texas Prairie Chicken, etc)
  • 2014 tour book
  • 2015 spring concert poster with the photo of Micky and Peter in the director’s chairs

The shirts were all around $35, I think the hats were $15, the buttons were $5, the tour book was $15, and the poster was around $10. I bought the grey cartoon shirt and a tour book. I love the Monkees’ tour books, because they always seem to have photos I’ve never seen before.

In my experience, Casino Rama doesn’t tend to check bags, so I brought my big old camera with me. No one hassled me about it, and I didn’t notice anyone else being told to put their cameras away, nor did I see any signs or hear any announcements about no photography.

They played Monkees songs before the show; I’ve always thought that was a nice touch. I don’t recall any particularly rare tracks being played; I can only remember them playing “Dream World”, “Steam Engine”, and “Oh My My”.

The intro video used the scene from Head with Victor Mature flipping through channels, but with various clips of the Monkees, including Micky’s Sugar Pops commercial, Davy on The Brady Bunch, Peter on David Letterman (with dream date winner Esther), Johnny Cash singing “Clarksville”, Micky on My Three Sons, and many others. The whole video was very nice.

The show

I found this set list online. I’m not sure that the order is right, but it’s definitely the same songs.

“Last Train to Clarksville”

There was something different about Micky that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Halfway through the song, it hit me: he wasn’t wearing glasses! In almost all of the recent concert pictures I’ve seen him in, he’s worn dark glasses, so it was nice to be able to see his face.

Micky and Peter definitely look older than they did when I first saw them live ten years ago, but Micky was constantly running around, Peter was constantly dancing, and they both sounded great.

“Your Auntie Grizelda”

This was the only song I knew that they’d be playing, since I’d previously seen a few tweets/posts going “ugh, I can’t believe they’re still doing ‘Grizelda’”. Peter must enjoy doing it, so hey, fine with me. Coco and Aviva (I’m guessing; I couldn’t see them too well because of the guy’s head in front of me) added some nice backing vocals near the end of this one.

“She”

Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

I was super excited to get to see Micky do the microphone trick live during this song, because he had only started doing it after the last time I saw them. It got to the “And now I know just why she…” part, where he usually starts trying to covertly steady the microphone stand, but he wasn’t doing it. I kept hoping that maybe he’s gotten so good at it that he can steady it super fast or catch it without even setting it up, but he didn’t do the bit at all. I wonder why he’s dropped it (the bit, I mean, not the mic).

“Mary, Mary”

“The Girl I Knew Somewhere”

They got through the first few songs with nearly no banter at all, so I was starting to get a little worried they’d cut out all the monkeeing around. Micky introduced the next song by talking about all their great songwriters: Carole King, Harry Nilsson, Paul Williams, Neil Diamond—lots of cheering from the crowd at some of these names. Micky also pointed out that Peter Tork was a songwriter, and Peter pointed out that they had a songwriter named George Michael Dolenz. Micky introduced the next song, which was by another great songwriter named Michael Nesmith. Micky turned towards Mike’s side of the stage in a way that almost made it seem like Mike was supposed to come out, but of course, he didn’t.

“I’ll Be Back Up On My Feet”

This song was a surprise. It’s one of the Monkees songs I don’t really care for, but I was stoked to hear it live. They could do a show full of all the worst Monkees songs, and I would still love it. Peter wasn’t on stage for this song.

“For Pete’s Sake”

Peter returned to the stage to do the next song, and Micky left. Peter’s intro for this song seemed to go on a bit and didn’t really have punchline; he just talked about how the song was the end theme for the show in the second season and in reruns. I know previously he’s had a little joke there about the royalties.

I think it was during this song that rather than playing clips from the show on the video screen, there were just photos. I wished I’d been able to watch the show twice: once watching the performers and once watching the video screen. There were a ton of pictures I’d never seen.

“Randy Scouse Git”

Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

Micky returned with the tablecloth and timpani for “Randy Scouse Git”. He noted that this wasn’t the original tablecloth; he said that one was cleaned and burned years ago. He spoke about how he saw the tablecloth in a shop window in London and decided it would make a great outfit. He said something to the effect that he didn’t know what he was thinking, but he was told he had a great time. This was a much shorter intro than usual, with no mention of the Beatles or tie-dyed underwear.

Peter helped Micky put the tablecloth on, briefly placing it so Micky’s entire head was covered. After he put it on properly, Peter realized it was on backwards, and readjusted it. Micky got out the mallets and started the intro to the song, but he quickly yelled to the band to stop because the tablecloth was in his way. He readjusted it so he was wearing it more like a cape.

I’ve found that every once in a long while, there will be a little moment at a concert where the music and everything is just perfectly perfect; there was a moment like this near the end of “Randy Scouse Git”, when Micky and Coco were singing the chorus part and Peter and Aviva were doing the verse.

After the song ended, Peter came over to Micky, and Micky yelled, “STEP AWAY FROM THE TIMPANI!”.

“Different Drum” / “You Just May Be the One”

The lights dimmed and the video screen played the clip of Mike singing “Different Drum” from “Too Many Girls”, followed by the Monkees performing “You Just May Be the One” from “One Man Shy”. I’m not sure if the band left the stage at all; towards the end of the song, I noticed everyone on the stage watching the video screen.

“Tear the Top Right Off My Head”

Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

They finished the video sequence with the clip of Micky and Peter playing “Tear the Top Right Off My Head” from “Hitting the High Seas”. I kind of threw up my hands and thought, “Don’t just show us the video; play the song!”. To my delight, the lights went up, and Micky and Peter were sitting at the front of the stage with acoustic guitars. They continued playing the song as the video ended, though they didn’t play the entire song. It’s one of my favourite Peter songs, so I was glad to hear them play it.

This was the start of the acoustic set. I’m not sure if they switched around the order of the songs from the planned set list, because it seemed like Micky started to introduce a song (I’m thinking it was “Clarksville”), but then Peter said no, not yet, and introduced a different song.

I believe at some point during the acoustic set, Micky turned up the brim of his hat and said, “Honey, is my hat alright?” and then said “That’s an in-joke”. Peter then asked, “Honey, is my hat alright?”. There was another point later in the evening that seemed like an in-joke, where Micky or one of the band members said “Not even!”

“Giant Step”

Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

Peter talked about this song while they showed a picture of Peter and Micky with a woman who I think might have been Carole King on the video screen. He said he came up with a different arrangement of this song, and I’m not sure who exactly he was talking about, but “they” eventually said, “oh, well, okay”, and let him do it his way. This was pretty close to the arrangement he does on Stranger Things Have Happened. There was one song that they did without the backing vocals that are present on the recorded version; it might have been this song, but I’m not sure.

There were a couple of songs that both Peter and Micky took turns singing, and I think this was one of them. That’s one thing I would have loved to hear more of on their previous tours. It’s great to hear any two or three or four of the guys all singing together like on the original records.

“Sometime In The Morning”

Micky Dolenz - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

Micky spoke about the next song, saying that he’d done three or four versions of it—“three or four hundred”, Peter added, meaning performances. (He might as well have meant recorded versions, since Micky seems to do a cover of it every time he releases a new album. :P) Micky’s definitely fond of this song, and he said he thinks it might be his “Layla”. “LAYLAAAA!” Peter yelled out, and I suddenly realized hearing Peter cover “Layla” is something I really want to hear. I don’t know how it’s possible, but that one-word cover was really good.

“Clarksville”

Micky said to Peter that he had to play a little bit of one particular song. Peter did a snippet of a bluesy version of “Last Train to Clarksville” that was very nice. It would have been great to hear a full version of it, but I can understand why they wouldn’t want to play it all again. There’s a similar version on Shoe Suede Blues’s album CD Cambria Hotel.

“Papa Gene’s Blues”

“I’ll Spend My Life With You”

Every couple songs, I was turning to my mom and going, “hey, that’s a new one!”. After this song, I stopped doing that, because it seemed like I was going to end up saying that a lot. I think Micky said this was a song that he thought Tommy Boyce particularly had had a hand in.

“Cuddly Toy”

They introduced the next song by saying they were going to play a video on the screen, and we were going to participate… by watching. I think they might be using Davy’s taped vocal, but it was hard to make out with the rest of the band playing and singing along.

“D.W. Washburn”

When they started into this song, I said out loud “oh my god”. I turned to my mom and was like “I can’t even believe this concert” and she just looks at me like what and I’m like oh my god. I’m pretty sure I’ve actually heard recordings of them doing this song live in the ’80s, so it shouldn’t have been that shocking. I’ve just never understood why they released this song as a single or who thought it was a good idea in the first place. Regardless, I love the song, and was happy to hear it live.

Around this time, I was thinking there must be a lot of casual fans here who were feeling kind of lost with all these obscure and weird songs. But I mean, the Monkees have so many big songs that the audience will know, and they’ve been performing live for so long; as long as they do their big hits, no one should blame them for doing whatever songs they want.

After this song, Peter and Micky talked about slowing it down a little bit, and how every once in a while, they like to do a song that’s more philosophical, more meaningful. And then they started into…

“No Time”

Suddenly, the first lines of the song made a little more sense to me:

Hober reeber sabasoben, hobaseeba snick
Seeber raber hobosoben, what did you expect?

“Words”

“Long Title: Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?”

Peter introduced the song and talked a bit about the film Head and how it was far out, like waaay far out on the commercial failure scale. Some people cheered after he mentioned the movie, and he said something like, “Oh, it sounds like at least eight of you saw it”.

I think it was during this intro that he mentioned it was on the Head album, and how they aren’t called albums or records anymore. He says his kids tell him, “Daaaad, they’re not albums; they’re CDs!”. He then said Micky’s told him there’s a new thing out now, and they aren’t even CDs anymore. Well, current technology aside, considering his kids have to be in their 40s now, he should probably drop this joke. :P

“Goin’ Down”

Micky Dolenz - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

Micky, as always, did a fabulous job on this song, as did the person in the audience who he had sing the second verse. Have I ever mentioned that I love that he always does that? Because I do. Of course, I’m also always jealous it wasn’t me that he picked, even though I know I’m sitting too far away.

“Can You Dig It?”

Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

This would have been a neat song to have Micky and Peter sing together, since they both recorded lead vocals for it, but I think this was another song where Micky was offstage.

During one of Peter’s intros—again, not sure which—he mentioned that if you’d like to request a song, you’re out of luck, because they only know nineteen songs, and they’re doing them all. On the other hand, if you know the set list and want to request a song out of order, so that you can think you have some control over your ever shortening lives… too bad, because if they do it out of order, they’ll get messed up and have to start right back from the top again. I’ve always liked this joke, and with the white-haired casino crowd, it was either particularly funny or particularly unfunny. It got a lot of those laughs that are like halfway through the laugh, you start to feel bad for laughing, so it’s like "ho ho… oh".

“Valleri”

This song was shown on the video screen, and it was the version from “Captain Crocodile”. I think it was sped up slightly, because Davy’s voice seemed very high-pitched.

“Sugar, Sugar”

Micky did the next song alone. I can’t recall exactly how Micky introduced the song, because I think my previous knowledge about the history of this song might be polluting my memory. But anyway, he did say this song ended up being recorded by a cartoon band. I think the crowd particularly liked this cover, and I don’t blame them; it’s awesome.

He changed up the types of sugar he named at the end of the song. I think it went something like “dextrose… fructose… stevia… artificial sweeteners that cause cancer!… molasses… BROWN SUGAR!”.

“Even White Boys Get the Blues”

Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

Peter did this song alone. He said it was a blues song he sometimes does with his other band, who, by the way, have CDs… and they’re for sale. He also mentioned he’s only started recently playing the blues. At this point, I started feeling a bit concerned that Peter’s not sure what year it is, because I’m pretty sure Shoe Suede Blues has been around for at least a decade.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I was at a Monkees concert and they played a song I didn’t know, so it was a nice surprise to get to hear something new. There’s an article where Peter talks about this tour, and says this part of the show is kind of like in the ’60s, where each band member got to do a solo song; I really like them continuing that concept.

Peter had fun with this song, and the audience seemed to have fun too. I think it was after this song that he tried to do the bit like on the Pat Sajak show where he controls the crowd’s screaming, but the crowd didn’t play along too well.

“That Was Then, This Is Now”

During this song, they showed pictures of Micky and Peter when they were kids on the video screen. Some of the pictures were in the ’60s teen magazines, there were a few from Circus Boy, but there were also quite a few I had never seen before.

“Daydream Believer”

They spoke a bit about Davy before this song, but they kept it short and sweet. Peter sang the first line or so, and then Micky sang the next line. Peter does a very nice version on Once Again, so I would have been cool with him singing the entire thing, but it makes more sense for them to both sing it. They had the audience sing the chorus at the end.

“Listen to the Band”

As they started to introduce the band, my mom turned to me and said, “I feel like I know them already”. The usual suspects:

  • Aviva Maloney
  • Coco Dolenz
  • Dave Alexander
  • John Billings
  • Rich Dart
  • Wayne Avers

“(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”

Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork - Casino Rama, Orillia, ON - April 25, 2015

At the end of this song, the band left the stage, and a lot of the audience started leaving. They were probably just anxious to go play the slot machines, but do people really think they weren’t going to play “I’m a Believer”? There was just a short wait before the band returned to the stage.

“Pleasant Valley Sunday”

Micky and Peter came out to the front of the stage, and Peter started telling a story. I was very confused at the time, so I can’t retell it very well, but it went something like this (but not exactly like this): there’s a farmer, I think his name was George, and his wife May, and they have a bunch of pheasants, and every once in a while, they need to do a kind of census to keep track of how many birds they have. I guess George goes out one day and counts up the birds, then he comes back home and says to his wife, “Another pheasant tally done, May”. Peter then says that Micky told him that joke. I turn to my mom and I’m like what. I probably should have gotten the joke quicker than I did because I knew what song was coming next. The joke is probably easier to understand when it’s written rather than spoken, but in case you’re still confused, the punchline sounds like the name of the song.

“I’m a Believer”

Don’t forget to tell your kids they did this song long before Shrek.

Overall

I’m lucky enough to have been to a lot of concerts and seen a lot of the great classic rock artists live over the last decade. Unfortunately, that makes it a bit hard for me to get excited about concerts, especially Monkees concerts, as I’ve been to so many.

But this concert got me excited again. It was different from the other Monkees shows I’ve been to, which I really appreciated. For big fans like me, this concert was great, with all the new songs and different arrangements. Hearing Peter and Micky singing together on a lot of the songs was awesome.

To someone like me, who knows all the jokes and stories, the banter seemed a bit unpolished, but I’m sure a casual fan wouldn’t have noticed. That’s a plus for me anyway; I love the screw-ups and crowd interaction and all the other little things that make that particular show different from all the other shows on the tour.

As I mentioned, Micky ran around a lot, resulting in a lot of blurry pictures. It seemed that every time I looked at Peter, he was dancing. They both sang well, and the band was great, as always.

Even if you’re a huge Monkees fan and you’ve already seen the Monkees/Threekees/Threekees 2.0/solo shows, there’s something new here, so don’t miss out on the Twokees if you get the chance.