On August 6, 1987 my parents took my brother and I to our first rock concert. It featured 'Weird Al' Yankovic as the opening act for The Monkees and it took place at Merriweather Post Pavillion in Columbia, MD, about 25 minutes from where we grew up in Baltimore. We sat in the very last row of the pavilion and passed binoculars between us to help us see what was happening on the stage, which seemed like miles away. I'm pretty sure they decided to take the two of us to this particular concert because we really enjoyed watching reruns of the Monkees' 60s television show, which were being replayed regularly on VH1 at the time. We also had vinyl albums of both acts,Weird Al and the Monkees, that we used to play on our brown and orange Fischer Price record player. I don't remember much about the Monkees performance from that night, but for whatever reason I remember Weird Al performing both 'Addicted to Spuds' and 'Like a Surgeon'. Maybe that's because I was only 8 years old and seeing Al with his long curly hair, costume changes, and cartoon-like songs was a bit more my speed. There's no doubt that this experience had a significant impact on me. I didn't get really serious about seeing live music until my friends and I were able to drive a good number of years later, but attending concerts has been my number one hobby for what is now around half of my life and that night was my introduction to it. I'll always consider Merriweather to be my home venue and I've seen some of my absolute favorite concerts there over the years. A few that come to mind are Tom Petty on the Wildflowers tour in August 1995, the Allman Brothers Band/God Street Wine in July 1996, and Phish in August 1998.
The reason I am writing and reminiscing about my first concert is that the Monkees today announced that they are going out for yet another tour, this one celebrating their 45th anniversary. The show I saw in '87 came one year after their 20th anniversary as a band. The only dates that have been announced for these 2011 shows are in the UK.
Just as was true at Merriweather 24 years ago when I saw them in concert, Mike Nesmith will not be joining his former bandmates Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, and Davey Jones on stage. A year before I saw them, in 1986, Nesmith sat in with them for a two song encore, which was the first time he played live with the group since 1969, nearly twenty years earlier. The only other appearances that Nesmith has made with the Monkees in concert are another one-off performance in Los Angeles in 1989, where he sat in for the last 11 songs of the show and a one-month UK tour in March 1997.
I have no idea whether the Monkees, or three-fourths of them at least, will sound any good in concert now that they are in their mid to late 60s, but I do know that they had some great pop songs written for and by them and that their records played a large part in my early years of listening to music. It's been quite a while since I've spent any time with their songs, but doing just that tonight has brought back some great memories.
Bonus Fact: In 1967, the Monkees outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined.
Last Train to Clarksville
(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone