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Pop : Nesmith Charms and Sounds Fresh

March 20, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN

There was a guy at the Wads- worth Theatre on Saturday night who looked exactly like Michael Nesmith did in the late-'60s--but that was just a member of a Monkees tribute band who'd come as a fan. On stage, the real Nesmith was having none of that particular nostalgia, playing none of his Monkees hits.

He is, after all, the only member of the Prefab Four with a notable post-prime-time body of work and, not coincidentally, the only one who largely abstained from the various reunions. So when, in his first L.A.-area show in three years (and just his second in more than 15), he referred to "songs from the early albums," he meant his '70s solo work.

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Such low-key, melancholy, country-folk-pop tunes as "Joanne" and "Calico Girlfriend" sounded fresh enough that they would fit in a set by such a current progressive-traditionalist country star as Vince Gill. And performing first solo and later with members of opening band the Hellecasters, Nesmith was a personable, charming presence.

Shouted one fan, "It's a long shot from the Monkees." Amen.

The all-instrumental Hellecasters--fronted by the Telecaster trio of John Jorgenson, Jerry Donahue and Will Ray--dazzled with fret-board prowess, recalling great pickers from Les Paul to James Burton to the Ventures. But they spoiled it by playing w-a-a-a-a-y too long.

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