I’m a second-generation fan of The Monkees.
Although I had my parents’ 45 of “I’m a Believer,” which I played for show and tell at school, it wasn’t until I was a teen and MTV started showing the old TV show again that I really started to buy what The Monkees were selling — power pop songs with catchy hooks and melodies. The Monkees made some of the most melodic and memorable, and even, at times, bizarre, pop music of the 20th Century.
My favorite Monkee, Micky Dolenz, made his way to Island View Casino in Gulfport on July 8, bringing with him hit after hit. Although Dolenz was there performing as a solo act, let it be clear that he was there to sing the hits of The Monkees, from the set’s opener “Mary Mary” to the show’s closer, “I’m a Believer” — no songs like “Lovelight” from his solo catalog.
Dolenz’s band performed the tracks like experts, and that’s because they are. Led by musical arranger/guitarist Wayne Avers, the band has been The Monkees backing band, minus Christian Nesmith, for years. They added all of the layered harmonies Monkees fans have come to expect. Dolenz’s sister, Coco, even took a couple of turns on lead vocals on the Mike Nesmith-penned “Different Drum” and the Jefferson Airplane classic “White Rabbit.”
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The affable and charming Dolenz’s voice shined, especially on “She” and “Sometime in The Morning,” while video screens displayed clips from his life and “The Monkees” TV show.
But Dolenz really put his heart into the new material. The Monkees celebrated 50 years in 2016 by releasing a new album. “Good Times” featured some unreleased Davy Jones vocals, a duet between Dolenz and his late friend Harry Nilsson — who Alice Cooper once told me were members of the original Hollywood Vampires drinking/social club — as well as songs written by Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie) and Noel Gallagher (Oasis). The three songs Dolenz performed from “Good Times” were among my favorites of the show, especially Gibbard’s “Me and Magdalena.”
The magical moment of the show happened late in the set when he sang the Carol King/Gerry Goffin song “Pleasant Valley Sunday.” I had forgotten how much I loved that song until I heard Dolenz sing it live.
There were also some tasteful tributes to Jones throughout the set. It was a real treat to hear Dolenz sing both “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and “Daydream Believer,” both of which were “Davy songs.”
After visiting briefly with Dolenz, I was leaving the casino when I heard Dolenz’s friend Harry Nilson’s “Jump in The Fire” blaring in the elevator and parking garage. While I normally think about Ray Liotta and cocaine (“Goodfellas”) when I hear it, this time it made me think of Dolenz/Nilsson duet “Good Times” and how much I love that record. To get to see Dolenz perform some of my favorite Monkees songs, both old and new, is not something I will soon forget.