Lions and tigers and bears? No way! Monkees? Way! Despite a state government shutdown that forced the Minnesota Zoo to close Friday, the Monkees concert still went on as scheduled at the zoo Friday night. Well, sort of.
Twenty-five minutes into the performance, the Monkees business suddenly stopped due to an impending thunderstorm. Concertgoers were urged to retreat into the hurriedly reopened main building of the zoo, and, after a lengthy delay, the concert resumed. Final score: Concert 80 minutes, rain delay 80 minutes.
If any of the people in the standing-room-only crowd felt cheated because they heard only 23 songs instead of the 37 the Monkees have typically performed in other cities, they shouldn't. The show, despite the carefully choreographed plans of the reunited boy band, turned out to be more effective because it was shorter.
Honestly, even the most hardcore Monkees lunchbox-carrying fan wouldn't have wanted to hear some of the obscurities and rarities the group has been playing elsewhere.
Moreover, even though it wasn't planned that way, the two sets showed different sides of the Monkees. The opening seven songs reminded everyone who the Monkees were: a U.S. made-for-TV answer to the Beatles, known as much for zany TV antics as hit music.
On this 45th anniversary tour, the 1960s Pre-Fab Four has become the over-60 Post-Fab Three. (Mike Nesmith, the guy with the glum face and stocking cap, dropped out years ago.) Davy Jones, 65, Peter Tork, 69, and Micky Dolenz, 66, hammed it up, telling corny jokes (Jones: "I think this is the first time they've seen monkeys without bars"), teasing one another and trying to suggest the good old days of their popular TV show, clips of which were being played on video screens. (Loved the shot of Davy making moon-eyes at Julie Newmar, who was about a head taller.)
In the second set, the threesome dispensed with most of the comedy (props to Jones for cleverly opening with the apropos "Rainy Jane") and tried to prove their musical bona fides. Though they complained too often about how they got no respect because they weren't allowed to play instruments on their early records, they demonstrated their musical chops and versatility.
Dolenz played drums and guitar, Jones guitar and tambourine and Tork guitar, keyboards and banjo. As lead vocalists, all three were not commanding or even assertive enough, but their harmonies (aided by all eight backup musicians) were '60s-suggestively sweet.
Musically, the Monkees essayed everything from music-hall ditties and bluegrassy folk to Elvis-evoking blues and their signature bubblegum pop. Bubblegum pop is, by definition, like the goo it's named for, short-lived. But when it's well-crafted and written by such future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers as Neil Diamond ("I'm a Believer," "Little Bit Me, Little Bit You") and Carole King ("Pleasant Valley Sunday"), it's like forever lollipops -- rain or shine.
Set list: startribune.com/artcetera. Twitter: @jonbream • 612-673-1719