The Monkees at Casino Rama, Orillia, ON on June 3, 2016
Place: Casino Rama, Orillia, Ontario
I’ll get to the concert in a bit, but first, here’s a little movie of the mind for you:
It’s summer 2002. A twelve year old girl has just discovered the Monkees, and she has quickly become obsessed. One year later, the obsession is still going strong. The now thirteen year old girl has just found out that Davy Jones is coming to her town. The show is the night before her first day of high school, when she really should be getting a good night’s sleep… but what’s more important than Davy Jones? Her mom’s friend is a regular at the venue where he’ll be performing, so she picks up the tickets for them. Imagine the girl’s dismay when she reads the fine print on the back of the ticket: “Must be 19 years of age or older”. The venue is a casino.
Fortunately, this story has a happy ending, because the venue was actually just outside of the casino, and the thirteen year old girl got in to see the show. But since that girl turned nineteen, she’s been to several other venues with names like Fallsview Casino and Casino Rama that really mean it when they say “19 years of age or older”.
That nineteen plus year old girl still remembers the tears that were shed over the prospect of not being able to see a favourite band, and although she knows that Monkee business is still a business, she wishes said favourite band would consider venues that are a little more friendly for younger fans.
Now, back to our story.
Before the show
I had seen a photo of the merch they were selling this year, and I was pretty excited. The t-shirts all looked great, and I had a hard time deciding which one to buy, but I finally settled on the gray t-shirt with the cartoon pictures of all four guys, since already I have two other cartoon tour shirts, but with just the Threekees. My mom bought the black 50th anniversary t-shirt, which I hadn’t realized had an Instant Replay-esque photo collage within the logo and not just a tie-dye rainbow type pattern. The prices for the shirts were $40, up from the $35 I’d seen online at earlier shows; I’m assuming that’s due to the Canadian exchange rate, but I don’t think I’ve seen that happen at a Monkees concert before. I was considering buying the tablecloth poncho, but the price was $100, up from $75 at other shows, and it’s not something I see myself ever actually wearing, so I couldn’t justify buying it. I was really hoping to buy the tour program booklet and Peter’s Stranger Things Have Happened CD, but they didn’t have either of them available. I also didn’t see the keychain, solo Micky shirt, or The Monkees deluxe box set. They have merchandise from previous tours available on the official website, so I’m hoping those will show up online eventually too.
The intro videos
Before the show, they played some Monkees clips on the big screen. This year, most (if not all) of the clips were from the soon-to-be-released Blu-ray set. They played some Kellogg’s and Kool-Aid commercials, the “Love Is Only Sleeping” music video, Davy Jones singing “Someday Man” on Music Bag, and The Monkees playing “Tear Drop City” on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
There was another clip that somewhat baffled me. It featured two men cleaning a white room. At first glance, it reminded me of the “Daddy’s Song” set from Head, but I quickly realized it had the look of a more modern commercial, I thought maybe for a vacuum cleaner, since I thought one of the men might have been using one. But no, that really does look like “Daddy’s Song”. I wondered if maybe it was in fact a new commercial or skit that was created perhaps by the venue to promote the show, and this white room was a reference to Head. But then I thought well, normal people don’t make references to things like that. It was then that I realized, no, this is “Daddy’s Song”, and it does look that good. I’m actually a robot, so I can’t feel human emotions, but my sensors were telling me that if I was human, my tear ducts would be dangerously close to malfunctioning.
After the videos were done, they played “Love’s What I Want” and “Me & Magdalena (Version 2)”, and possibly a few others as well.
Once the band came on stage, I heard a guy nearby ask, “Where’s Mike Nesmith?”
“Listen to the Band”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen The Monkees open with a song other than the instrumental version of “(Theme From) The Monkees” followed by “Last Train to Clarksville”, so that was a pretty cool surprise right off the bat. I think they did a shortened version, and I believe Micky sang lead.
“Last Train to Clarksville”
“That Was Then, This is Now”
I tend to pay more attention to the stage than the video screen, but it was really hard not to watch the screen this year with the great quality stuff they were showing. During this song, they had a lot of footage, especially from the ’80s, that I hadn’t seen before.
“Your Auntie Grizelda”
As this song started, a guy nearby said, “I love Auntie Grizelda!” It feels like a lot more people have been coming out in support of this song lately. I’m not personally a big fan of it, but I am firmly of the belief that this song should be performed at any Monkees concert that features Peter Tork (at least for as long as he enjoys singing it).
Although, I’m not entirely sure I understand the concept behind the ad-lib break, which differs from the way it was performed on the original album. Instead of just making random noises, Peter does something that seems like an impression of a parrot crossed with the flipping channels bit in Head where he seems to be repeating snippets of conversations with fans. The only quotes I remember in particular were something like, “Where’s the Monkeemobile?”, “I saw you on TV”, and “Micky was always my favourite, but my mom thought you were the cutest”.
I don’t think they’ve performed this song much or at all since about 2011, so it was very neat to see.
This was the first time I got to see Micky do the mic stand bit, since he didn’t do it at the last show I saw at Casino Rama. I got some decent pictures too, so I’m pleased about that.
“She Makes Me Laugh”
Knowing that they would be playing a song from their new album was the main reason I wanted to go to this show. I didn’t become a fan until years after Justus, so this was the first time I’d ever be able to hear The Monkees do a new song live.
They played the lyric video on the screen during this song, which is a nice idea, because I’m guessing most of the crowd didn’t know the song, but it really stands out when Micky sings a different line than what’s on the screen (particularly when he sang “I would like to be with her for a while” in place of “I could hang out with her all day and night”). I was really hoping we’d get to hear “You Bring the Summer” as well, but it had only been a week since the album was released, so I wasn’t holding my breath on that one.
“A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”
During this song, the video on the screen was a sort of stop-motion video using the ’60s Monkees trading cards. It looked really neat, and a lot of work definitely went into making it.
“The Girl I Knew Somewhere”
“Shades of Gray”
Peter introduced this song by talking about this “wayback machine” they had obtained that would let them capture Davy’s voice and then they would play along to it. His explanation was a bit long winded, and I seem to recall him talking about an Indian cave or something. He said it looked like a few people in the audience got the reference, but I wasn’t one of them. My mom later told me she thought he was talking about some ’60s cartoon characters called Mister Peabody and Sherman who had wayback machine. All I could think of was the Archive.org Wayback Machine, which I’ve now learned got its name from the cartoon. (Would you believe me if I told you I owed it all to a Monkee?)
While singing the line “shades of gray”, Micky lifted up some of Peter’s hair. Peter said, “Don’t make me take off that hat”, to which Micky laughed and said, “Shades of bald!”
“Randy Scouse Git”
Micky did his usual intro about writing this song in England, meeting the royal family (no, not that one) and being told he had a good time. Peter asked if he remembered writing the song at least.
“For Pete’s Sake”
I think it was at this point Peter spoke about Headquarters and how it was the first time they created a record together. He referenced the popular myth about the Monkees not playing their own instruments, but he only referred to it in a very vague way. He also said it didn’t bother him, but then jokingly acted choked up about it.
This was another one of Peter’s long introductions, but he acknowledged this habit by ending with something like, “And now we’ll play this song for you, if I can ever stop talking”.
“Let’s Dance On”
This was the only ’60s Monkees song I hadn’t heard performed in concert yet, so this was a very nice treat, especially since it’s one of my favourites from The Monkees album.
The ending of this song was a bit different from how they usually do it I think, but I can’t quite explain how.
“(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone”
When introducing this song, I think Micky asked, “Are you ready?” and Peter said, “No, I’m not”. Peter sung the first line or two of the song, and Micky sang the rest.
“What Am I Doing Hangin’ ’Round”
Peter introduced this song as a song that Mike brought to the band, and although he didn’t write it, they think of it as a Mike song. He explains it was written by Michael Martin Murphy, who later joined a band called the Lewis and Clarke Expedition, and “we’re still waiting to hear from them”. There were a few laughs, which I think Peter pointed out and Micky said, “These are the jokes, folks!”
Micky spoke again about the wayback machine and then started walking and talking backwards. After doing this twice, Peter said that that was just a test.
The song started with the familiar piano riff, but it didn’t sound right. I thought hm, that’s an… interesting choice, but it was quickly fixed.
“Pleasant Valley Sunday”
As they started into this song, I was suddenly a bit confused. It’s much too early for “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, I thought, since they hadn’t done their solo spots yet. In fact, I don’t think either Micky or Peter left the stage at all during the show, which is something I think they’ve always done at one point or another. I try to avoid set list spoilers, but I did hear that Micky was doing “Don’t Do It” or “Johnny B. Goode” and Peter was doing “Higher and Higher”. I was quite excited about hearing “Don’t Do It”, since I’m a fan of the more obscure stuff, and I love Peter’s version of “Higher and Higher”, so I was really looking forward to that too. It was also at this point that I remembered I had heard they were doing “Steam Engine” (which is probably in my top five all time Monkees songs) on this tour, but I realized if they hadn’t done it yet, it probably wasn’t going to happen. It was a bit disappointing, but I understand why they did it; my guess is casino crowds tend to be more casual fans than hardcore ones, and with the show being shorter, they’re going to cut the more obscure songs rather than the well-known ones.
“I’m a Believer”
I believe it was at the beginning of this song that Peter apologized that one of the songs a few songs ago didn’t sound right, and that they pride themselves on having an unpolished show, and they like to knock the polish off once in a while. I assumed he was talking about the intro to “Daydream Believer”; my mom thought there was another song that didn’t sound right, but it didn’t register with me if there was.
As we were walking through the parking lot after the show, my dad—who skipped the show to go to the casino—asked if they did all their usual jokes, like “I’m told I had a good time” and the Shrek line. My mom and I immediately realized that no, there was no mention of Shrek at all, which was rather strange. I think Monkees fans can sometimes give the guys a hard time about the recycled lines, but I think I actually missed hearing the Shrek line this time.