Along a media superhighway studded with pop-cultural milestones, one boulder-size birthday looms especially large here on the threshold of summer 2016. And this Memorial Day weekend, the Count Basie Theatre does its part to celebrate the golden jubilee of a genuine boomer-era phenomenon when it hosts a 50th-anniversary tour appearance by the Monkees.
Scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sunday, it’s a concert headlined by two of the three surviving Monkee men: Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork, back on the road following the 2012 death of bandmate Davy Jones. And, while it can’t promise the lineup of the group’s previous Red Bank rendezvous (an affair that included the occasionally reuniting charter member Michael Nesmith), it comes on the heels of an acclaimed new album and a reinvigorating new wave of interest from a cross-generational coterie of fans and fellow musicians.
The anniversary marks the summer-of-’66 release of “Last Train to Clarksville,” the first single from the quartet of young actors and musicians assembled for a NBC-TV series that would debut to instant, smash success in September of that year. The record hit number one; the slapsticky series and the debut album would soon follow, and the Monkees would embark on a wildly fast-paced ride spanning two seasons of their (increasingly bizarre and experimental) show; a string of LPs that would see the Monkee-men evolve from song-factory mouthpieces to masters of their own vinyl domain; and the thoroughly trippy (Jack Nicholson-scripted) feature film HEAD before petering out at the finish line of the Sixties.
Having been in the business of reuniting with some regularity ever since a next-generation MTV audience discovered them in the 1980’s, Dolenz and Tork are back fronting a slick road band in a recreation of the group’s impressive catalog of solid hits — many of which, like the Micky-vocal masterstrokes “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” were penned for the group by pop geniuses like Neil Diamond, Carole King-Gerry Goffin, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
The new album Good Times! carries on in that vein, offering up a baker’s-dozen tracks that range from new recordings of old songs (by Diamond, King and the late Harry Nilsson), to compositions by members of Weezer, Oasis, Death Cab for Cutie, the Jam, XTC, and even a newie from Nesmith.
Expect “a full evening of magic music and multi-media splendor, including clips from their Emmy Award winning series,” featuring “all of the Monkees hits, plus an intimate acoustic set and solo spots for each of the singers.”