Atta boy, Mike
It’s fair to wonder what a solo show from Michael Nesmith – the most enigmatic of former Monkees – would be like. Is there loping country-rock? Is there conceptualizing befitting the music video and cult film (he helped produce Repo Man, you know) pioneer? Does he wear a wool hat?
In short: Yes, yes and definitely no.
These days, Nesmith – white-haired and balding – cuts a more avuncular figure. Opening with his lone concession to the Monkees days, “Papa Gene’s Blues,” he then moved onto other songwriting successes, as well as the early solo excursions that had paved the way for alt-country. Nesmith’s smoky croon intertwined beautifully with the steel guitar of Chris Scruggs (grandson of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs) on songs like “Joanne” and “Some of Shelley’s Blues.”
Nesmith introduced most songs not with stories about their geneses, but shaggy dog narratives featuring unnamed protagonists that took place in Paris, LA, outer space and elsewhere.
As the night progressed, leading further into Nesmith’s solo discography, his reliance on slick rhythms and Weather Channel synths grated a bit. Nevertheless, the fern bar-era single “Cruisin’” still contains a killer chorus, and Scruggs unleashed an almost Neil Young-like solo on “Grand Ennui.”
Overall, though Nesmith might have a prickly reputation, his obvious warmth and gratitude on stage, and the sold-out crowd’s rabid response, was ingratiating.
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