The first time I went to a movie by myself I was a freshman in college. I didn’t have many friends and the few I did have didn’t want to see “Caveman” with Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach. Looking back, I can’t say they made the wrong decision.
It was an awkward and uncomfortable experience. Sitting there, all alone. Everyone staring and pointing at you. Calling you ‘loser’ under their breath. Oh, I could hear them. I could see them.
I only did that once or twice more before I discovered The Matinée. Ah, the matinée. No one cares if you’re alone at the matinée. You don’t need a date for the matinée. You don’t even have to arrive early for the matinée to get a good seat.
Then I became a movie reviewer and suddenly going to movies alone in prime time was OK. People didn’t look at you funny ’cause you were in the ‘reserved for press’ row. It all worked out.
I’ve never had a problem with eating alone. Eating with people can be awkward. They’re talking and I’m eating and then I finish eating and they’re still talking and haven’t eaten and then they start eating and I guess I’m supposed to do the talking but I don’t have anything to say and I just sit there and play with the utensils.
Plus, if I eat alone I can read and dine at my own pace. Besides, I don’t eat at the kind of places where one would feel self-conscious eating alone.
The one thing I have never done alone is go to a concert. That would just be too weird. What if the people next to me are dancers? Or talkers? Or the type who stand up through the whole show? I stopped going to concerts in general because of all that crap, I don’t want to face it by myself.
And then The Monkees came to my town.
The first time I saw The Monkees (Davy, Micky, Peter) in concert was 1986 in Kansas City, where I was living at the time. My sister drove up from Springfield for the event. My sister assures me I saw them again a year or two later in St. Louis but for some reason I have no memory of that show.
Normally after seeing a band twice (even if I don’t remember the second time) I would bow out of seeing them a third time. Especially since one of them had died in the interim. But while I was losing Davy, MIKE was finally rejoining the band. Papa Nez. My favorite Monkee. The level-headed one. The one who sings all the great Monkee songs that never get played on the oldies station.
I have to go. I know The Wife will not go. She does not appreciate The Monkees. If she goes with me, she will be a downer that will bring down my joy. No big deal, she didn’t go to the other two shows either, but I know who did. I e-mail my sister with the exciting news.
“Oh, so sorry. My weekly secretaries convention is that week in Kansas City.”
Sigh. I e-mail my other sister.
“Sorry. I’m going to Israel that week.”
Sigh. No big deal. Somewhere in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area there is someone who will go to the Monkees concert with me. Somewhere I have a friend who will not let me down.
I send out a general plea. Nothing. I send out a second. Nothing. Now, granted, people in St. Louis don’t know what good entertainment is. They worship baseball here, after all.
In the end the only person who said she would go with me was Tina, but I could tell she was only doing it out of friendship and not a love of Monkees. I didn’t see the point in dragging her along, especially if it was going to cost me another $60. Besides, I could easily see her using this as an excuse to drag me to a Luke Bryan concert and that just ain’t happening. I’ll sit through all the Shakespeare and Jane Austin adaptations you can throw out there, but I draw the line at New Country.
And so it was that on Thursday night I made the long drive to the Fox Theatre all by myself. Since I was by myself I was able to listen to my Monkees CDs, so that was nice. Went to the box office and asked for an aisle seat so there would only be strangers on one side of me and so I could make a quick exit if the strangeness of being alone at a concert venue became too much.
Waited in line far too long to buy a Monkees mug to go with my collection of concert coffee mugs then went downstairs to hide out in the bathroom until showtime (The bathrooms at the Fox are very nice). The show was to start at 7:30 so at 7:25 I made my way to my seat in row CC, left of center (where Mike stands).
The three seats to my left remained unclaimed so I had my own private space. I was mostly surrounded by middle-aged women. There were some chatty people behind me but they kept it quiet through most of the show. No one stood up until encores. God bless the old and middle-aged.
The show started promptly at 7:35 (Five minutes late is not late in my book, especially when you consider all the concerts I’ve been to where the headliner doesn’t take the stage until 9 p.m.) and God bless The Monkees for starting their show at such a respectable time. And for not wasting my time with an opening act. The two-hour, 29-song set (30 songs if you count the video of “Daddy’s Song,” which I will count to make it an even 30) entertained me and got me home at a decent hour. God bless old musicians. I suspect they wanted to get to bed the same time I did.
The band didn’t waste any money on elaborate set design — just the three Monkees, a handful of musicians and a couple of backup singers spread out across the stage. Behind them, a giant video screen. Now normally bands use the giant video screen to project images of themselves live as they’re performing for the benefit of those in the back. The Monks weren’t having any of that. All the video displayed was circa 1966 — images from the TV show, the movie, album covers and collages of old photos.
The concert opened with scenes from the TV show audition tapes, the theme song, and — of course — “Last Train to Clarksville.” I don’t believe a Monkees’ concert has ever opened without “Last Train to Clarksville.” Then it was Mike’s turn on lead (Papa Gene’s Blues) and the obligatory Peter lead (Your Auntie Grizelda).
The show pretty much followed the musical timeline of The Monkees in their prime. There were no post-breakup/reunion songs on the set list. I couldn’t help but wonder what all those parents with young children were thinking during the long “Head” section. I love the music from “Head” (not so much the movie) but I can see where all the psychedelia might cause some to freak out.
Lead vocals were almost evenly split between Micky and Mike with Peter doing his best on a half-dozen tunes. Time is hard on everyone’s vocal chords and The Monkees are no exception. Micky held up the best but then he’s had a lot more practice over the years. Mike clearly couldn’t hit those high notes of his youth and Peter — poor Peter. Never the most gifted singer in his prime, his pipes have not improved with age. But he gave it a good try and he’s certainly the most accomplished musician of the three so everything finds a balance.
While it’s sad that Davy couldn’t be there I’m pretty sure it would’ve been to Mike and Pete’s detriment if they’d had to fit in several Davy tunes. And since I saw Davy in the previous two tours it was great to see Mike given such a prominent role after all this time. He sang every Mike song I wanted to hear with the exception of “Love is Only Sleeping,” but made up for that omission by including “The Door Into Summer” and “Tapioca Tundra” — two songs I never thought I’d see performed live in my lifetime. They did a really nice rendition of “Sweet Young Thing” with Peter on banjo that’s better than the studio version.
And while Davy wasn’t there his presence was certainly felt. He was a constant presence on the video screen and the show ended with a heartfelt sing along of “Daydream Believer.”
I’m so glad I went, even if I went alone. Maybe now that I’ve broken the solo barrier I’ll go to more concerts I could never drag The Wife to. I hear Pearl Jam’s coming in October.