Halfway through 1967, you’d be hard-pressed to find three bands that ate up more radio airtime than the Monkees, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and, of course, the Beatles. In fact, the Beatles’ single “All You Need is Love” became the unofficial anthem that summer, while their masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band was chased up the charts by the Monkees’ Headquarters. Meanwhile, the Raiders had just finished up a stint as house band on Where the Action Is, and midway through ’67, were declared Columbia Records’ top rock act.
Channeling the spirit of those magical months is the 50 Summers of Love tour, recreating musical moments from 1967 that shaped not only the season, but the entire year, into an icon of an already iconic decade. Joining original Monkee Micky Dolenz and Raiders’ frontman Mark Lindsay on 10 dates around the country is premier Beatles tribute band the Fab Four, recreating the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper-era sounds and looks.
At the tour’s debut at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay in San Diego on July 14, the Fab Four started the festivities donning full Pepper uniforms befitting the album’s iconic cover; “George Harrison” (Doug Couture) even sported a replica of Harrison’s matching tri-cornered hat. (Not the only tri-cornered hats to make an appearance, as we’ll see…)
Sandwiched between “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and its reprise were a slew of tracks from the album, along with Revolver‘s “Got to Get You Into My Life” and the non-album single “Strawberry Fields Forever,” on which the band pulled a “wow” moment by using a bit of voice modulation to imitate the record.
The band’s attention to detail is exemplary, proving why it’s spawned multiple casts and weathered more than two decades in the biz. Instead of relying on Macs or offstage help to add sound effects to songs, everything is pieced together in front of the audience’s very eyes (evident when a wrong key was hit and a snippet played out of context, which, honestly, only served as proof of their ability to navigate not only performing the songs note-for-note but also timing the supplementary effects perfectly — not a small feat).
While the Fab Four whetted the crowd’s appetite for the main course, the combination of Micky Dolenz and Mark Lindsay onstage was nothing short of brilliant. Structured as a back-and-forth exchange of songs, it mimicked what the local Top 40 stations probably more-or-less sounded like back in the summer of ’67.
Starting with a duet of Boyce & Hart’s “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” was apropos of the occasion; the Monkees would take the hit to the top of the charts, but the Raiders recorded it first. Lindsay and Dolenz traded a few playful jabs over the tune; at one point, Lindsay asked Dolenz maybe a little too intensely, “Are you completely sure you’re… not… my… stepping… stone?” That faux-competitive banter throughout the entire show created just enough tension to turn this pairing electric.
Backing both men were the Fab Four, trading in their Pepper uniforms for Raiders jackets and tri-cornered hats (told ya!) passed out by Lindsay. One of the highlights of the evening was the Raiders’ Easter eggs that, I’m sure, only the diehards picked up on, like choreographed dance steps to Lindsay’s first number, “Steppin’ Out,” or flipping the Vox Phantom bass to reveal “Fang” written in gaffer’s tape on the back. For me, it was thrilling, and I’m sure for much of the audience, it was those details that brought them right back to their Raider-fan days in the Summer of Love.
— Monkees newsupdates (@monkeesnews) July 15, 2017
(Not to worry, Monkees fans — keyboardist Ron McNeil sported a signature Mike Nesmith wool hat at one point, and a guitar was turned over to reveal the Monkees’ famous logo.)
The two headliners navigated through their catalogs, performing their monster hits but also tossing a couple of rogue deep tracks into the mix. Dolenz grabbed a guitar to accompany “the one that started it all,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” and belted out a number of the Monkees’ greatest hits, including the originally Davy Jones-sung “Little Bit Me, Little Bit You,” “Words,” and, of course, “I’m a Believer.”
Of course, it’s probably the Monkees’ cheekily titled “Randy Scouse Git” that sums up that fateful summer — at least for Dolenz. As many times as I’ve seen him perform that track over the years, his exuberance on the timpani accompaniment only seems to grow. By the end of the song, he’d worked the Humphrey’s crowd into a frenzy.
— Rebeat Magazine (@rebeatmag) July 15, 2017
Lindsay (sans ponytail these days) added some R&B-flavored rock to Dolenz’s pop, breaking out his moves for the Raiders’ “Kicks” (side note: how much yoga does Mark Lindsay do to be able to kick that high?), “Hungry,” “Good Thing,” and “Him or Me, What’s It Gonna Be,” the latter of which was probably the Raiders’ song riding highest in the Summer of Love. He also tossed in a pair of oddballs, one of which, “The Great Airplane Strike,” most likely jogged a few memories in the crowd and had some folks rooting through their record collections when they got home.
— Rebeat Magazine (@rebeatmag) July 15, 2017
Both Dolenz and Lindsay seemed genuinely excited to shake up the typical act-by-act format of many legacy package tours. The fact that they both had an opportunity — maybe the first in their careers — to join in on each other’s material was a delicious bonus both for the two performers and the audience. It meant double the music, double the hits, and double the stage time for both. In short, the 80-minute second half felt like a proper show from both. I doubt anyone went home lamenting about not hearing their favorite songs or feeling cheated over how much time their fave got in the spotlight.
Most of all, the night achieved its purpose: bringing back the spirit of that free-flowing, sonically sublime summer. For artists and fans alike, it was a chance to time-travel back to when the music was groovy, the vibes were good, and love was all around.
The 50 Summers of Love tour runs through the year. Find out if it’s coming to your area here!