The Monkees Came To My Town…

On July 20, the surviving Monkees—Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith—came to Philadelphia with their second year of touring. My friends who lived through the 1980s and 90s MonkeeMania know I am a die-hard fan. I have been to Monkees events in the snow, the scorching heat, the pouring rain, and even a sandstorm. I have learned that when going to see the Monkees, I should expect the unexpected. This show was no exception.

Mann - Logo

The Monkees at the Mann Music Center
Philadelphia, PA, 7/20/2013

The adventure began before we even got to the Mann Music Center. We were about a mile away (according to our Google directions) when traffic on the Expressway stopped dead. Not moving off the exit. The clock ticked ever closer to 8 PM (show time). The veins popping out of my temples must have finally scared my husband, because he left the non-moving line and went to the next exit to try to enter Fairmount Park from the far end and wend our way in. Except that we couldn’t—roads in the Park were closed everywhere!

We had no idea how close to the Mann we were, but people were parking all along the road, so we did, too. We loaded up and prepared to walk. A woman stopped her car and asked me, “Is this within walking distance to the Mann?” I replied, “I hope so.” I couldn’t figure out how she knew I was going to the Mann until I remembered I was wearing my Monkees tour shirt from last year!

So we walked. And walked. And walked. Did I mention that it was hot as Hades? The heat index was well into the 90s, even though it was eight o’clock at night. After we slogged the MILE AND A HALF to the Mann, I was dripping like a melting candle.

During the torture trek, we discovered the source of the closed roads and the stand-still traffic. The event planners of Philadelphia had decided to hold a run of some sort in the Park on the same afternoon as the concert. And the parking for the run was…the Mann parking lot.

By the time we oozed through the gates of the Mann, we had missed half of the first song—“Last Train to Clarksville.” Not bad, when you consider that I saw people arriving at the show as late as 30 minutes into it.

When we sat down, I gaped. Our seats were amazing! They hadn’t looked so close on the seating chart. We were in the 5th row! Only a Box containing 4 rows was between us and the stage. Unfortunately, the box also contained 2 girls who insisted on getting up and dancing. I had to laugh, though, because I could not have planned their blocking of my view any better if I had tried. Whenever they stood up, they were perfectly aligned with Micky at center stage and Peter at stage left. Perfectly covered those two. Every. Single. Time. So I saw a lot of Mike on the far side of the stage. Which is not a bad thing! I don’t know if someone said something to them or if they just got heat exhaustion, but they did stop blocking everyone’s view about halfway through the show.

Mann - The Coolest Fan

The Monkees and their coolest fan

In spite of the late arrival and the heat and the girls, I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The guys sounded fantastic, and they had a good time up on stage. They cracked jokes about the heat, and even played around with a cooling fan set up on one side of the stage. Their set list was almost identical to last years’, but that was fine by me because I think it features some of their best music. The only thing that would make this show perfect is if Davy were alive and part of the mix.

Highlights of the show? For me, every song could have been a highlight, either for the musicianship, the lyrics, the performance, or the memories it called to mind.

Specifically, Mike’s simple yet powerful “You Told Me” is a personal favorite, “What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ ‘Round?” brought flashbacks of the TV show, and the whirling, skirling “Circle Sky” rocked the house.

Michael Nesmith

Michael Nesmith

Micky’s ever-energetic “I’m A Believer” was a fan fave, his veiled protest song “Randy Scouse Git” got me singing (as always), and “As We Go Along” let Micky’s bluesy-jazzy voice soar over an enchanted crowd.

Micky Dolenz

Micky Dolenz

Peter’s rendition of “Early Morning Blues and Greens” was better than Davy’s original on Headquarters,  the 60s anthem “In This Generation” (written by Peter and used as the closing theme to the show in the second season) lifted the crowd out of their seats, and the kaleidoscopic, hallucinogenic “Do I Have To Do This All Over Again?” left me breathless and dizzy.

Peter Tork

Peter Tork

And what of Davy Jones? This year’s show was minus two of the video tributes to their fallen band member, but “Daddy’s Song” remained. Really, you cannot have a set focusing on the weirdness that is Head without showing the splendid positive-negative editing of that song (as well as Davy’s fantastic dancing). And, of course, no Monkees show is complete without the iconic “Daydream Believer,” carried this year, as last year, by people pulled onstage from the audience and the audience as a whole.

Mann - Daydream Believer

Daydream Believer

During the show, I struggled with my camera early on. Got a lot of swirly, out of focus, off-color shots. I could not believe that I was in fifth row and couldn’t get a decent picture! But I finally stumbled upon a setting (in the Sports menu) I hadn’t tried before, which took care of the focus/swirly issue. And then I noticed that Mike was wearing white pants! Hallelujah! I quickly used the manual white balance on my camera to set “white” to the color of his pants, and that took care of the off-color issue. I ended up getting some great shots!

Mike & Peter Jamming

Mike & Peter Jamming

The performance, with video clips running continually in the background, captured the verve and fun that has made the Monkees a crowd-pleasing favorite for so many years. The songs are “oldies,” but the guys play them fresh every time, the joy they have in the process of creating and playing the music making the songs ever new.

Micky Shaking Hands

Micky Shaking Hands

After jamming with the Monkees for several hours, I was happy-exhausted. I often wait around after shows trying to get autographs, but I know from experience that the Mann backstage is pretty much inaccessible. I might have hung out anyway, but when the show ended, a light rain was falling…and our umbrella was in the car 1.5 miles away. The storms had been forecast to be through the area by 8:15, so we hadn’t bothered with the umbrella.

Thankfully, the rain stopped almost as soon as we set out for the car, but a raging lightning storm lit up a fourth of the night sky. Awesomely beautiful streaks of lightning jagged through the sky, some jumping from cloud to cloud, some spearing down to earth. Very scary, as we hurried along paths lined with trees that looked suspiciously like lightning rods. I had thought we’d be able to take our time walking back to the car, but the storm made us hurry as fast as getting to the show, and we were once again sweat-drenched as we threw ourselves into our car.

Severe weather conditions, traffic troubles, technical difficulties both human and machine, rocking music, spot-on vocals, exuberant performances, and an addictive, potent mix of new and old memories—everything I expected from a Monkees concert and at the same time, so much more.

Mann - Three Shot

Mike, Micky & Peter at the Mann


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