Take this opportunity to cross one item off your bucket list — Mike Nesmith is on tour. Fortunately, the intimate and historic Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minn., found its way to his spring 2013 tour dates list. This reviewer was not the only person in the crowd thrilled about the opportunity, however. One couple drove to Minnesota from Chicago for the show, and green wool hats dotted heads of the 20-somethings throughout the multigenerational crowd. The audience’s gratitude for the visit was loudly apparent, as an exuberant standing ovation greeted Nez the moment he stepped onto the stage. He seemed amazed, almost bashfully motioning to everyone to sit, so he could begin. Raucous cheers followed each song, especially “Joanne”/”Silver Moon,” to which he replied, “Holy smokes, thanks,” before going into the story behind the next tune.
Storytellers has to be one of the best things begat by VH-1, as Nesmith introduced his songs with the stories behind them. He explained, “These songs live like mini movies in my mind.” Of course they do; he pioneered music video. How amazing for folks in the audience to have new connections with songs that have been part of their lives for decades.
The show extended more than 90 minutes, but even doubling that might not have satiated the fans or thoroughly covered his nearly 50-year music career. He traveled through his catalog, beginning with “Papa Gene’s Blues” and “Propinquity” and extending through the recent “Rays.” He included a triptych from The Prison, as well as a salute to Red Rhodes‘ pedal steel playing in the encore, thanks to modern digital technology, where the band played along with a recording of Rhodes on “Thanx for The Ride.”
In the “of course he played that” category: “Different Drum,” “Some of Shelly’s Blues” and “Rio.” In the “I can’t believe he played that” category: “Cruisin’,” and any fans who’ve ever seen Elephant Parts have the image burned into their brain of the bodybuilder in the speedo walking down the Sunset Strip. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t “unsee” it. What a hilarious treat to hear in concert.
Overall, the show was a joy for any fan of Nesmith’s long and varied solo career. Information on the few remaining dates can be found on his official site. Any Monkees fans shouldn’t miss the chance to attend, just because of the rarity of the event — if you can find tickets, that is. Many shows are sold out.