The Monkees at Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH on November 17, 2012

Hittin’ the road, gonna ring some bells

This weekend, I went to see The Monkees in Cleveland on Saturday night, and then in Buffalo on Sunday night. I tried to avoid set list spoilers as much as I could, but I couldn’t give up Monkees social media for two weeks, so I knew a lot of the songs they were going to play beforehand.

On Friday afternoon, my parents and I left for Cleveland. At the Canada–US border, the border guard asked us where we were going.

“What’s in Cleveland?”
“A concert.”
“Who’s playing?”
“The Monkees.”
“Aren’t they all dead?”

Well… still a better reaction than my roommate, who, when he asked what I was doing a few weeks ago, and I said, “Updating my Monkees website”, he stared blankly at me and asked, “…what does that mean.”

During our five hour-ish drive, I was on the lookout for things I could vaguely manage to relate to The Monkees. There was a truck with a logo in the Monkees’ font, a Schneider truck, and just outside Cleveland, a Babbit Road. On Saturday, while going shopping, we accidentally turned on to Pleasant Valley Road. On the night of the concert, I saw a sign that I mistook to read “Do you love Monkees?” (it actually said “movies”).

When we arrived at our hotel late on Friday night, my mom and I waited in the car while my dad checked in. A nice car drove into the parking lot, and I yelled, “He’s wearing a hat!” My mom, confused, asked, “Is he not allowed to wear a hat while driving?” I laughed. “No, it was a Micky hat!”, I told her. (Sadly, it wasn’t Micky.)

Gettin’ in

Finally, it was Saturday night. The venue, Lakewood Civic Auditorium, is a high school auditorium that holds about 1,800 people. It was close to show time, 8 pm, when we got there. We drove around for a while trying to find parking around the back of the school, but it was all full. There was a big bus parked there too. Eventually, we made our way around to the front of the venue, where there was a big parking lot for special events. My dad let my mom and I out while he parked. (By the way, my dad is a pretty awesome guy. The total number of hours he has driven to take me to Monkees concerts is something like over forty hours there and back, not to mention the money he’s spent buying merchandise, and the time he’s spent waiting for me to get autographs and sitting through concerts of people he doesn’t even particularly like.)

My mom and I went inside. The security guards at the doors said to open all bags. I obliged. The guy poked around my bag, which was quite heavy due to the big old honkin’ camera I had in there. There were signs that said “No flash photography”, but it said nothing about regular photography. He asked what was in my bag. I said a camera. He asked to look at it, so I opened up the camera bag. He poked around some more.

“What kind of camera is it?”
“Umm… a Panasonic… Lumix…?”
“Does it take video?”
“Um, I don’t know…”
“You don’t know what kind of camera you have?”
“Um, it, I think it doesn’t… um, no, or… maybe it does… uh… I won’t take any video.”

Then he told me, “No videos, no flash, and if they catch you, they’ll kick you out”. For future reference, when someone asks what kind of camera you have: it’s a picture camera. Also, a note to future concert go-ers: while my camera is quite big, it’s not a DSLR with a removable lens. Most concert venues I’ve been to do not allow cameras with removable lenses.

Anyway, the rather small lobby was packed. I saw a few green wool hats, and I put my own on. There was a long line up for the ladies’ bathroom, and a line up for water, and a very long line up that wrapped all around the room for merchandise. My mom and I waited in the merchandise line. When my dad arrived, he offered to wait in line to get me a t-shirt so we could get to our seats before the show started. (Did I mention my dad is awesome?)

My mom and I went to our seats, which were the third or so row from the back—but they were still really good seats. It’s a big auditorium for a school, but small for a concert. I’d estimate that there were about twenty or so wool hats in the crowd. As we were waiting to get to our seats, a guy in line said to me, “Nice hat”. I saw someone on the far right of the theatre with a wool hat with buttons and sideburns and a red shirt (which I would guess had eight buttons). Pretty dedicated (especially if they were a girl, but I couldn’t tell since I was too far away). There were two empty seats in front of me that remained empty for the whole show, which was great, because usually I’m stuck behind a tall guy.

My dad showed up during the second song with a t-shirt for me, but he said that they were out of the tour books. I didn’t realize until after the show, but my dad had also bought the buttons and wore them on his shirt for the whole concert. I was a bit disappointed with the t-shirt this year; I much prefer the red one I got last year, but I am glad they at least had the black shirt for women and men.

Before the show, they played the “Monstrous Monkee Mash” outtake and Kellogg’s and Yardley commercials on the video screen, which I believe they also did on the tour last year.

Here they come…

The show begins with the band playing a medley of Monkees songs, and then The Monkees come on stage and play “Last Train to Clarksville”. Peter was wearing a blue satin shirt, Micky was wearing a black jacket and black and silver sparkly shirt, and Mike was wearing a dark jacket with red stars on the collar and—of course—the sparkly silver Jimmy Choo shoes. After the first song, Micky introduces Peter, Peter introduces Micky, and Micky introduces Mike. Mike gets a big round of applause.

Mike Nesmith - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

Next up is “Papa Gene’s Blues”. I think there might have been something wrong with Mike’s microphone at the beginning of the song—or maybe my mind was just blown hearing Mike live for the first time and it needed time to compute. Anyway, it was quickly fixed and all was well.

Next Peter sang “Your Auntie Grizelda” and danced around and made funny noises like he does. My dad turned to me after the song and said, “That was funny! I really liked that!”. Alright. Now, you see, my mom and I had a “talk” with my dad before the show. He has a knack of looking bored at concerts, so we told him he had to pretend he was enjoying it, or at least pretend he wasn’t not enjoying it. So when my dad said this to me, I told him, “It’s okay; you don’t have to lie,” and he said, “No, I really liked it!”.

“She” was the first song that I didn’t know they were going to play, but I think they’ve played it on tours before, so it wasn’t a big surprise. My mom turned to me after the song and said that she really liked it. The video used clips of the girls in the romp from “The Devil and Peter Tork”, and I thought it was edited quite nicely, though whenever they used footage from romps with different songs than the one they were playing, it always threw me off.

When they first started to play “Sweet Young Thing”, I had no idea what song it was. It was quite a different arrangement from the original version. I wasn’t too sure whether I liked it our not, but I figured I’d decide at the next show. For some reason, I really noticed Davy’s absence during this song.

Peter Tork - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

Micky introduced the next song by talking about all the great songwriters The Monkees had: “Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Boyce and Hart, Neil Sedaka” (“Black & Decker”, Peter added), “Neil Armstrong… and this one guy named Neil Diamond”. Micky said before he sang the song that he wanted to let all the kids in the audience know—and he pointed out a kid near the front and said, “I see you!” in a baby voice—that they sang this song long before Shrek. The song was, of course, “I’m a Believer”. At the end of this song was my favourite moment of the whole concert. Micky always yells out “Thank you, Cleveland!” after this song—no matter what city he’s in—and that’s exactly what he did that night… in Cleveland. I didn’t know if it was a mistake that he got it right or not, but I loved it either way.

Next up was “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”. Micky was super energetic, running and jumping around the stage. You could still see some of that ’70s glam version of the song in there.

The entire audience—even way up in the back—had been standing the whole time, but everyone sat down during the “I Wanna Be Free” video. I didn’t know exactly how the Davy tribute would be handled, though I knew how they were going to do “Daydream Believer”. It didn’t seem right to play only “Daydream Believer”, so it was nice that they played some other Davy songs too. Using a video for “I Wanna Be Free” was a good choice, because certainly no one else could sing that song either. (Nor “Cuddly Toy” or “She Hangs Out” or most of his songs, really.)

Micky Dolenz - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

After the video, The Monkees returned to the stage, and the crowd stood up again for the Headquarters set, with Micky on the drums now. They started off with “You Told Me”. I’m pretty sure Mike looked at me during this song. (Yes, I did say I was at the very back of the place… but he totally did.)

“Sunny Girlfriend” was the first song that really surprised me; I had heard there were a lot of Mike songs in the show, but I didn’t think they would do this song. I’m glad they did though, with my website’s name being from the song and all.

The third Mike song in a row: “You Just May Be the One”. This was probably the biggest surprise song of the night for me. For some reason, I had the impression that Mike didn’t like this song, but I don’t know where I heard/read that, or if I just imagined it.

Next was “Mary, Mary”. After the show, my mom told me that she remembers singing this song with her friends in the ’60s and how they said that they should form a girl group and be like The Monkees. D’aww!

Yet another Mike-penned song: “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”. I had read that they were going to do this song, but I didn’t know whether Mike or Micky would sing it; it turned out to be Mike. (I just looked over the set list and saw that Micky and Mike each sang lead on ten songs, while Peter sang lead on five songs. Cool.) Before this song, while on the drums, Micky said, “Uh oh!”, but I don’t know what it was about.

During Peter’s introduction for “For Pete’s Sake”, he said, “It goes something like this”, and then some people in the audience or maybe some people in the band yelled back, “It goes exactly like this!”. Mike was over on the keyboards for this song and the next, and he was noodling around during Peter’s intro.

After that, they went right into “Early Morning Blues and Greens”. When I was first into The Monkees, for a long time, I didn’t like this song at all, but over the years, it’s grown on me, and it’s one of my favourite Davy songs. I knew that they were going to do this song, though I didn’t know who would sing it. I think Peter was a good choice, and I really like that they played such an obscure song.

  • Micky Dolenz - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012
  • Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012
  • Mike Nesmith - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

Here comes Micky with the kettle drum and tablecloth for “Randy Scouse Git”. Peter helped him put the tablecloth on. Micky does his spiel about England, the alternate title “Alternate Title”, the horny Liverpudlian putz, the colours, I’m told I had a great time, yada yada. When Micky mentioned meeting the Royal Family, even my mom knew by now that he was talking about John, Paul, George and Ringo. The song just wouldn’t be the same without Micky’s intro though, even if he has been saying it for decades. After the song, my dad turned to me and said that it was a good song.

Just before “Randy Scouse Git”, Mike switched from the blonde Gretsch to another guitar. After the song, he let us know that the blonde had betrayed him. He said he’d had a talk with her over by the amp, and she said (in a high pitched voice), “…No!”. He said, “Come on, babe. There’s a lot of people, Cleveland’s a great town… ‘No!’ Just, just… ‘No!’”.

Micky introduced the next song. He said that he had a book of lyrics for this song (written by Mike), which, to his knowledge, the Monkees had never done on a tour before. The reason he had printed out the lyrics was because he couldn’t remember them; Mike had told Micky that he had written the song by throwing Scrabble pieces in the air. Mike said, “You say that every show, and it’s just not… entirely… true!”. At this point, I’m wondering what song this could possibly be, and then Micky informs us that the song is “Daily Nightly”. Micky says that Mike told him he was going to get a real Moog synthesizer for the song, and in return, Micky had the lyrics to the song printed in 24 karat gold. Mike starts saying, “Oh boy…”. He informs Micky that he couldn’t get a Moog because they’re really expensive, and they’re as big as… a metaphor for something really, really big. But he did get a picture of a Moog! “This is 24 karat friggin’ gold!” Micky cries, and points at the picture of a Moog sitting in someone’s yard on the big screen, “Those are dead houseplants”. Mike insists that he has it covered, he has his back, do the song, and it will be just like the record.

  • Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012
  • Micky Dolenz - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012
  • Mike Nesmith - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

I am rather sad that I knew about the Moog gag in advance. I didn’t watch any videos or see any pictures of it, but I still knew what was coming, which ruined the surprise—but Mike as the Moog was still great. And it was lovely to watch Micky laughing at Mike.

After “Daily Nightly”, Micky asked Mike, “Do you have a back-up in case it goes out of tune?”. “The synth?” Peter asked, but Micky meant the guitar. Mike informed us that “The blonde’s comin’ back. She went out, she had a drink, and she’s pullin’ herself together”. Peter said, “I saw her walk in, Mike”, and he does a drunk walk. “Oh no,” Mike said. “Just thought you should know,” Peter said.

Next up was “Tapioca Tundra”, and then “Goin’ Down”. In his introduction for “Goin’ Down”, Micky mentioned that the song had been on Breaking Bad. As always, Micky was great on “Goin’ Down”. At one point, he pointed the microphone at a girl in the front row, and she proceeded to sing the entire verse perfectly; I felt very proud for her. Micky danced a bit like he does in the video from the show. Afterwards, my dad turned to me and said it was a good song. (He’s got pretty good taste in Monkees songs… though “Grizelda” is still somewhat questionable.)

Everyone left the stage while they showed a video with clips from Head. My dad even laughed at the line, “Well, if it isn’t God’s gift to the eight year old”. Micky returned and did “Porpoise Song”. He came in early on the “Clicks, clacks” line, but that’s the only flub I noticed the whole concert. I was glad they did the outro, because it’s awesome, and the song just doesn’t feel complete without it. Watching Micky drumming on the outro, he looked like he was having so much fun, and it made me want to play the drums too.

Peter Tork - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

I had previously seen a photo from the concert with “Daddy’s Song” on the video screen, and I wondered how could they possibly do that song. Well, they did it with the band playing to Davy’s recorded vocals. At least, I think it was Davy’s vocals; it sounded higher pitched than Davy’s voice, and I’m not sure which version of the song they used (after the Buffalo show, I’m thinking that they sped up his vocals, which is why it sounded higher pitched). While I like Mike’s version of the song, and I would have loved to see him dancing around, it just wouldn’t be right; Davy owned that song. They did a nice job with the editing because I didn’t even realize until the end of the last verse that the movie footage for the spoken verse wouldn’t have synced up properly with the music.

Next was “Can You Dig It?”, another song with different versions with different lead singers; Peter took lead on this one, and rightly so, since he wrote it. The video screen showed the dancing girls from Head, and it reminded me of other concerts I’ve been to—like Motley Crue and AC/DC—where they have nearly naked dancing girls on the video screens, and the whole thing just tickled my funny bone.

Next was “As We Go Along”, which is one of my favourite Monkees songs. They played the video from Head on the screen, and when they showed the clip of Davy walking through the flower field, and with the other three there on the stage, I thought, “Now that’s a picture”, but I didn’t have my camera ready. During this song, Peter and Micky started clapping a rhythm that went something like clap-clap, clap; clap-clap, clap. I immediately thought, “No way, dudes, that is way too complicated for me” (there is a reason I don’t play drums that often).

Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

Most of the audience had been sitting since the beginning of the Head set, but when “Circle Sky” started, everyone stood up again. I noticed the video footage (again from Head) had all of the war bits edited out. I wish they had used white lights for this song to go along with the white outfits they wore in the movie. Before “Circle Sky”, Peter approached Mike, held his guitar up to Mike’s, and made a comment about Mike’s blonde guitar being negatively charged and his own being positively charged.

Closing out the Head set was “Long Title”. Everyone left the stage for the Davy tribute video, which showed clips of him from the show and some from before The Monkees, like on Ed Sullivan (strangely enough, it was “I’d Do Anything” that I had stuck in my head after the show).

After the video, the band returned to the stage, and Micky introduced “Daydream Believer”. I think he was a bit choked up. He said that when they were planning the tour and trying to decide how to do the song, Mike said that they couldn’t sing the song anymore, but the audience could. Micky invited someone from the audience on stage to sing, a girl named Andrea, who I think might have been the same one who sang “Goin’ Down”. (I myself was deeply jealous.) She knew all the words, and she seemed to want to do a Davy dance, so Micky told her to go ahead. After the song, Mike said that they were done, and everyone made disappointed noises.

Peter Tork - Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH - November 17, 2012

But there was one more song: “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round?”. Peter said, “If you guys have requests… we don’t do that. On the other hand, if you know our set, and you want to ask us to do it out of order just so that you think you have some power over your ever shortening lives…”. Mike sounded especially twangy on this song.

When they finished, I couldn’t think of what songs they would do for the encore. For some reason, I had forgotten that they’d already done “Clarksville”, and thought it might be that. Everyone left for a short while, and then returned for “Listen to the Band” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (clearly, I’m not very good at guessing songs, because I know they’ve often closed shows with these songs). Micky introduced the band during “Listen to the Band”. Micky’s sister Coco was on back-up vocals and percussion; I had previously seen her in Micky’s solo band, and I was glad when I heard she was joining them on this tour. There was also Mike’s son, Christian, on guitar, and he got a big round of applause. The rest of the band consisted of Dave Alexander, Aviva Maloney, John Billings, Rich Dart, and Wayne Avers.

After “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, they all took a bow and left. Peter dawdled a bit at the right of the stage before leaving.

The set list

  1. “Last Train to Clarksville”
  2. “Papa Gene’s Blues”
  3. “Your Auntie Grizelda”
  4. “She”
  5. “Sweet Young Thing”
  6. “I’m a Believer”
  7. “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
  8. “I Wanna Be Free”
  9. “You Told Me”
  10. “Sunny Girlfriend”
  11. “You Just May Be the One”
  12. “Mary, Mary”
  13. “The Girl I Knew Somewhere”
  14. “For Pete’s Sake”
  15. “Early Morning Blues and Greens”
  16. “Randy Scouse Git”
  17. “Daily Nightly”
  18. “Tapioca Tundra”
  19. “Goin’ Down”
  20. “Porpoise Song (Theme from “Head)”
  21. “Daddy’s Song”
  22. “Can You Dig It”
  23. “As We Go Along”
  24. “Circle Sky”
  25. “Long Title: Do I Have to Do This All Over Again”
  26. “Daydream Believer”
  27. “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round?”
  28. “Listen To The Band”
  29. “Pleasant Valley Sunday”

It looks like we’ve made it to the end

I found that I couldn’t hear a lot of the spoken comments, which made me sad, because I think the little bits in between songs really makes concerts so much better. I like when artists are friendly and personable and jokey, and The Monkees are great at that. I think maybe the sound was just bad in the back. And I wouldn’t have complained about more banter, but maybe that’s just me.

There was a girl at the end of the row in front of us, who, after nearly every song, yelled, “I love you Papa Nez!” (you can actually hear her on some videos from the show). It was a bit annoying. I mean, okay, I get it, it’s a concert, you’re supposed to have fun (and I certainly don’t disagree that Papa Nez is love-worthy), but you don’t have to yell it after every single song. Part of me wanted Mike to acknowledge her so she’d stop, but part of me was glad he didn’t. I thought I heard someone yell something about frodis once, but that might have been my imagination. I also kept noticing these two guys in the front row who looked very enthusiastic.

One thing that really bugged me during last year’s tour was that the background singers often overpowered the Monkees. I didn’t notice that at all this year.

Micky was super energetic and jumping around a lot, and I think he was the most upbeat I’ve ever seen him. Mike’s voice at first started out shaky, but by the end, he sounded just like good old Monkee Mike.

Overall, the show seemed less Vegas-y and cheesy than last year’s tour did. I don’t know if that’s simply because Davy wasn’t there, since Davy is just a Vegas-y, cheesy kind of person in general—which isn’t a bad thing, because I mean, if I didn’t like cheesy, I wouldn’t like The Monkees in the first place—or because they consciously decided to make it less cheesy. There were also some jokes that I have heard on every live recording of The Monkees ever that they didn’t do that night. I wonder if Mike had anything to do with that, or if it was a mutual decision.

Anyway, it was still all good old-fashioned Monkees fun, but they weren’t so much a parody of themselves like they have been in the past. I appreciated that.

Artist: The Monkees
Place: Lakewood Civic Auditorium, Cleveland, OH