The Monkees were the first rock band born on TV, so it was only fitting that they brought their delivery room with them on their 50th anniversary tour, which came Tuesday night to the Winspear Opera House.
Relying heavily on a screen above the stage, the concert began just like the TV series, with a vintage NBC peacock promo leading into a recording of "Hey Hey We're the Monkees." And for the next two hours, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork did a commendable job of singing, playing and mugging alongside dozens of clips of their much younger, hairier selves.
The footage served as a reminder of just how zany the Monkeeswere during the series' brief existence from 1966 to '68. The group may have started as a prefab version of the Fab Four, modeled after A Hard Day's Night, but even John Lennon called them "the funniest comedy team since the Marx Brothers."
Cracking bad jokes between songs, Dolenz and Tork came off just as corny at times as they did on TV. But the music had aged remarkably well, from jangling ditties penned by Neil Diamond ("I'm a Believer," "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You") and Gerry Goffin and Carole King ("Pleasant Valley Sunday") to the country- and psychedelic-rock experiments of later years. You almost got a contact high watching the underwater clip that accompanied "The Porpoise Song (Theme from Head)," a tune so trippy it was covered in recent years by Dallas' Polyphonic Spree.
At age 71, Dolenz has the same strong, dramatic tenor he first showed off 50 years ago on "Last Train to Clarksville" and "I'm a Believer." The 74-year-old Tork - never much of a singer to begin with - struggled during some of his solo spots, although he was ably assisted by vocalist Gemma "Coco" Dolenz (Micky's sister) and the rest of the tight five-piece backing band.
The disembodied voice of Davy Jones, who died in 2012, appeared in "Daydream Believer" and the ballad "Shades of Gray." Michael Nesmith - an alum of Dallas' Thomas Jefferson High School - declined to take part on this tour, although Dolenz and Tork tipped their hat to his songwriting skills with renditions of "Mary, Mary" and "Listen to the Band."
But the big payoff came with a batch of sterling new songs from Good Times!, the band's first album in 20 years. Singing the Beatlesque "She Makes Me Laugh" (written for the album by Weezer's Rivers Cuomo) and "You Bring the Summer" (by XTC's Andy Partridge), Dolenz and Tork pulled off the tricky task of keeping one foot in 1966 and planting the other foot firmly in the present.