Perhaps the most played-out member of the group (that is played-out, NOT out-played), Dolenz has kept himself onstage delighting fans for many years. Of the remaining Monkees, it is him who truly exemplifies the spirit of the group in his wacky stage presence, not to mention his still-sparkling powerhouse lead vocals that were, back in the day, famous for nailing songs like “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville” in one take.
A few weeks prior to the lauded Monkees reunion (Dolenz, Nesmith, and bassist Peter Tork), Dolenz brought his act to New York’s B.B. King Blues Club. His set was decidedly eclectic, from the self-confessed “big, fat Monkees hits” to a duet with his sister Coco on “Bye Bye Blackbird,” the first song their mother, actress Janelle Dolenz, taught them. He gave the Archies’ bubblegum blockbuster “Sugar, Sugar” a slinky, bipolar treatment, fluctuating between seductive whispering and solid demands (the track was reworked for his new album, Remember), while double-dipping “I’m a Believer” into the set list.
Keep in mind that prior to the Monkees, Dolenz only flirted with music; even though he moonlighted in a few bands, his career ambition was to follow his parents’ footsteps into acting. When the Monkees came calling in 1965, the four boys cast were basically divided into halves: Dolenz and Jones were trained actors with a bit of musical background, while Nesmith and Tork worked the folk circuits since the early ‘60s. A safe bet is that, had Dolenz been asked in those days what he’d be doing at age 67, he probably wouldn’t have said leaping about the stage and still perfectly punctuating -every lyric of the manic Monkees stream-of-consciousness hit, “Goin’ Down.”
It’s obvious to concert-goers now that Dolenz was born to do nothing else. Incorporating the sweet “Sometime in the Morning” into the set alongside “Purple Haze” (a nod to a certain well-known guitarist who opened for the Monkees in 1967) shows not only his musical versatility, but his penchant for doing whatever the hell he wants onstage. Unlike a lot of legacy artists, Dolenz keeps it fresh, whether he’s screaming the lyrics to “Johnny B. Goode” or transforming Monkees gem “D.W. Washburn” into a Broadway show-stopper. His able backing band, now including Davy Jones’ beloved musical Jane-of-all-trades Aviva Maloney, rolls with his punches, obviously as predictably unpredictable as Dolenz himself.
The concert at B.B. King’s was recorded for a live DVD/CD set, which is great for whetting the appetite, but will probably be no substitute for the real thing. The magic of Dolenz in person is unmatched and not to be missed. Whether you’re a new fan or a longtime devotee, Micky Dolenz will make a believer out of you.