The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016
Thursday night at The Bomb Factory, Dallas got its first glimpse into Mark Cuban's new TV concert series with a free performance from '60s legend the Monkees. With the band celebrating its 50th anniversary, it was a night predictably heavy on nostalgia, but it wasn't a night heavy on Cuban himself.
The series, dubbed "AXS Concerts Hosted by Mark Cuban," had promised "a significant on-air presence" from the billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner, but he didn't make an appearance on Thursday. The show simply kicked off with a short clip of Cuban welcoming the 1,000 people in attendance to the concert series, which aired live on his AXS network.
The Monkees were supposed to be the first of five shows hosted and televised by AXS TV, but the Village People canceled the show that was scheduled to take place next week. That leaves Bret Michaels on August 25, KC and the Sunshine Band on September 1 and Bad Company on September 8.
A perk of AXS TV’s partnership is higher production value. A TV control board was operated behind the sound and lighting equipment, which was in turn nestled in the shadows of a pair of towering TV cameras standing on twin platforms.
The production comes with a price though. Woe unto you if you were sitting in the left balcony or the back-left of the floor. A camera attached to the end of a 20-foot boom, constantly swinging like a drunken toddler operating a fire truck’s ladder, was a persistent nuisance. To assist the cameras, the house lights were never brought down, which may explain the timid behavior of the audience.
That audience featured an inordinate number of heads crowned with gray or silver hair and more than a few devoid of hair altogether. Younger fans were sprinkled throughout the crowd as well, but most of the audience were probably around to catch the Monkees when they got their start more than 50 years ago.
Founded in 1965, the Monkees — who were in Dallas back in June for a show at Winspear Opera House — began as a TV show featuring a fictional band of the same name trying to make it big like the Beatles. The show folded after a couple of seasons but the band has continued on to sell more than 75 million albums.
The Monkees have broken apart and reformed multiple times over the past 50 years, and Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork are the only originals members touring this time around. Guitarist Michael Nesmith wasn’t on board and Davy Jones passed away after a heart attack in 2012 at the age of 66.
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The set list was filled with hits like "I’m a Believer" and "Daydream Believer" that the crowd sang along with. Feel-good songs like "Here Comes the Summer" off their new album, Good Times, received warm responses. During up-tempo tunes like "A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You," the crowd began to clap and interact with Tork and Dolenz. People began relaxing and opening up just as the show drew to a close.
After a couple minutes of whistling and cheering, Dolenz and Tork returned to the stage for an encore. Some fans took advantage of the final tunes and began to openly dance while other shyly swayed back and forth.
The concert leaned heavily on the nostalgia of fans who grew up watching the TV show. A large screen behind the band played clips from the two seasons that aired. About halfway through the set the screen began to display music videos, old concert footage and psychedelic imagery. Songs from Good Times still harken back to Brady Bunch romance and the values of the late '60s and early '70s. No Tinder in this world.
The show was refreshingly technology free and there was a noticeable absence of cell phone screens floating in the air. Audience members pulled out their cameras en masse during a couple of iconic songs, but left them in their pockets for most of the evening.
After 50 years of performing, the original band members may be a little long in the tooth but not exactly over the hill. Dolenz, 71, was surprisingly spry and didn't hesitate to hop around the stage or jump on the second drum set throughout the show. Tort, 74, is a little less mobile but just as enthusiastic, and he provided the occasional comic relief. It’s not clear how much longer the band can keep the show going, but for now, hey, hey, they're still the Monkees.