The Monkees’ Raleigh concert will cover songbook, tribute to Davy Jones

CorrespondentJuly 18, 2013 

  • Details

    Who: The Monkees (Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith)

    When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

    Where: Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East South St., Raleigh

    Cost: $57-$102

    Info: 800-745-3000 or dukeenergycenterraleigh.com

Editor's Note: Story has been edited to correct the night of the concert to Tuesday, July 23rd.

If you’re worried you’ve missed that proverbial last train to Clarksville, The Monkees keyboardist and bass player Peter Tork has good news.

Tork, 71, and the other surviving members of The Monkees – one of the most successful musical groups of the past 50 years, mind you – will perform in Raleigh on Tuesday.

In a telephone interview last week, Tork said the concert set list is nearly identical to the band’s critically acclaimed tour late last year.

The current show – with original Monkees Tork, Micky Dolenz and yes, even Michael Nesmith (Nesmith has rarely performed with the band since 1970) – represents the whole of The Monkees’ songbook, from early hits like “Last Train To Clarksville” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” to deep cuts from later albums such as “Headquarters.”

Tork takes pride in those songs and the entire musical output of The Monkees, who recorded classics penned by icons such as Carole King, Neil Diamond, and Boyce and Hart.

“What always surprises me when I look at it is the range of The Monkees’ songbook,” he said. “Great, great pop songwriters have contributed to this songbook. It’s not The Beatles, it’s not The Stones, it’s not as consistent, it’s much more bubblegum and it’s much more targeted. Still, it’s one the great songbooks of all time.”

The multimedia concert also includes rare films of the band in its heyday.

“We do as good of a show as we know how,” Tork said. “We have a good time up there. Joking is part of what we’ve always done, so we’re going to keep on joking as part of what we do on stage.”

Without Davy

Tork is alternately lighthearted and introspective discussing the sudden death of former bandmate Davy Jones, who died in February 2012.

When asked about the “big hole” left by Jones’ passing, Tork joked, “Well, it’s not all that big. Davy wasn’t very tall, you know!”

Still, Tork admits it’s hard to address the issue.

“Davy was a huge talent,” he said. “He was the most musical and actually the smartest of us all. He had the best raw brainage of the four of us. I had some times with David Jones that were among the most human of my entire life. And I miss that enormously. He brought a great deal to the table.”

Although Jones’ death was sudden, Tork said Jones had not planned to join this tour.

“Davy wasn’t interested in doing a reprise of ‘Headquarters,’ ” said Tork. “He didn’t feel like he participated in it very much, and Mike, Micky and I felt like it was our album.”

“Headquarters,” The Monkees’ third album, was the first on which most songwriting and instrumental performances were by the band members themselves. On the first two albums, the group was barred from entering the studio except to add vocals once the instrumentation had been recorded.

While shows in the current tour pay homage to Jones, there are things the band can’t do without him.

“(When it) came time to sing ‘Daydream Believer’ (Jones’ signature tune), we looked at each other and said none of us can sing the lead,” Tork said. “So we have someone from the audience come up representing the whole audience, you know, like it no longer belongs to us anymore, it belongs to the fans.”

Band’s place in culture

The Monkees’ legacy is a complicated one that continues to evolve. On one hand, the group is one of the most successful pop acts ever, outselling The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, combined, in 1967. On the other hand, they have been cursed as “four talentless slobs” and “cheap imitations” of The Beatles, in Tork’s words.

But Tork is fiercely proud of the band’s place in American culture. The Emmy-winning “The Monkees” TV show, which debuted in 1966, is hailed as groundbreaking for its direction and as a precursor to MTV and reality TV.

“We never said it or talked about it,” Tork said, “(but) ‘The Monkees’ was the only TV show about adults that did not have a senior adult on the show. So it represented a new kind of egalitarian, ‘we’re all in this together.’

I can’t tell you how many people (have) said they had half an hour of sanity every week, and that was in front of the television watching ‘The Monkees.’ The kids felt seen. They felt here was a show about living life anyway. And I think that was a terribly important thing.”

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