RIP Davy Jones: Review from 1996 concert in Cedar Rapids

Singer performed with his band, The Monkees, at Taste of Iowa in 1996

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My adolescent fantasy has become reality. I saw Davy Jones live so close I could almost touch him.

While that was the dream of a 10-year-old, nearly 30 years later, it was Peter Tork I couldn't keep my eyes off of. When The Monkees swung through Cedar Rapids to kick off the Taste of Iowa festival Friday night, it was the goofy one who captured my attention.

Tork grinned like a little kid at Christmas, clowned around with the audience and his fellow simians, and looked like there was nothing he'd rather do than perform. Michael Nesmith, on the other hand, reportedly hates touring, and stayed in L.A. to finish the group's latest album.

So it was Tork, Jones and Micky Dolenz who rocked the night away, under a backdrop of perfect weather and with a standing-room-only crowd grooving on May's Island.

What was touted as two concerts, at 7 and 9 p.m., was really one long event, from 7:30 to 9:50 p.m., with one 20-minute intermission.

So if you left at the 8:30 break, you missed "Daydream Believer," my favorite, and if you came at 9, you missed "Last Train To Clarksville," my other favorite.

"That Was Then, This Is Now" could have been the theme for the evening, as the music was vintage '60s, but the look was '90s hip. Time has been kind to the trio - they look and sound just as great as I remember.

They still do the cornball quips typical of their campy TV show, like Dolenz telling the crowd, "We have another oldie but goodie for you, and he's going to sing," then turning the mike over to Tork.

All three took turns on lead vocals, backed by a terrific array of instrumentals, from synth and cymbals to saxes and hot electric guitar.

Dolenz showed off his jazz roots, with a soulful, wailing solo turn on "Since I Fell For You." Jones took the "pretty little ditties" like "It's Nice To Be With You," but he really shined belting out "Valleri."

Tork romped through the novelty songs, and even strummed the banjo on "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher." That wasn't his best moment vocally, but the banjo lent a kicky, unexpected edge to this cover tune.

Critics have blasted this made-for-TV band for turning out bubble gum hits. But the group proves its genuine musicianship and diversity with raw, raucous garage blues on "Mary, Mary," jazz scat from Dolenz, gutsy screaming on "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" and mesmerizing waves of lyrics and flute on "I Wanna Be Free."

I'm a believer.

NOTE: This review by Diana Nollen was originally published in The Gazette Aug. 31, 1996.

See also -- Monkees reminiscing: Cedar Rapids appearance

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