THERE went the Monkees, still monkeying around, kidding on their memories had faded with age. "Who are you?" asked one. "They told me I was in the band. I'm gettin' a paycheck!" mugged another. That was always the point. The first unashamedly manufactured boy band were all about the impression of youth and madcap vitality in the 1960s, and to see these three old gents (Mike Nesmith hasn't returned with Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones) with a combined age of precisely 200 clown around before pristine footage of their younger selves was sad at first. Not embarrassing, just steeped in an unhappy yearning for long-lost youth.
It didn't help that the first half of a two-act, 40-song set was drawn from the kind of filler material which only a completist could love. Jones, an old-school, Palladium-style English entertainer, sang the unremittingly saccharine It's Nice to Be With You, the cod-country of Listen to the Band and the banjo-twanging, Easy Rider-lite clapalong What Am I Doin' Hangin' Round all of which floated by in a mist of someone else's hardly-remembered nostalgia.
After the interval, however, they were like a different band, more bona-fide classic rockers than dusty party piece, and a suite of songs including Circle Sky and Can You Dig It? from their famously crazed album Head was played with noise and vitality, stamped more with the voice of Dolenz, who looks like he could have been the lost member of Buffalo Springfield. The hits were saved for the finale, including Last Train to Clarkesville, a hands-aloft Daydream Believer and Pleasant Valley Sunday, giving the crowd just what they wanted: good, bad and all.