Michael Nesmith performing on March 24, 2013, at the Canyon Club in Agoura… (Nurit Wilde )
In returning to the stage for his first solo U.S. tour in 21 years, singer-songwriter and part-time Monkees member Michael Nesmith demonstrated that his penchant for taking music above and beyond the norm remains fully intact.
Over the course of his nearly two-hour show Sunday at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, the 70-year-old musician and his four-piece band turned in 17 songs spanning more than 40 years. He started with “Papa Gene’s Blues,” a song from the Monkees’ 1966 debut album and which he described as “one of the first songs I ever wrote,” and reached as far forward as “Rays,” the title track from his most recent studio album, released in 2006.
Rather than just hopscotching through his considerable catalog of predominantly post-Monkees solo material, Nesmith stitched together a cohesive narrative with connective introductions for each song. “These songs play out like little movies in my head, so I’ll share those with you.”
It allowed him to link various songs, including his early solo hits “Joanne” and “Silver Moon,” as well as perhaps the most esoteric choices from his song book, three tracks from his 1974 “book-with-soundtrack,” “The Prison.”
At the end of the set, offering up “Laugh Kills Lonesome” from his 1992 album “Tropical Campfires,” Nesmith was joined by guitarist John Jorgenson, who played with Nesmith after having been a founding member with Chris Hillman of the Desert Rose Band of the '80s and '90s and later joining Elton John’s touring band.
The set wrapped up with “Thanx for the Ride,” with the original steel guitar parts played by Nesmith’s longtime collaborator, the late O.J. “Red” Rhodes, incorporated posthumously by way of modern technology.
Monkees singer Micky Dolenz was on hand for the show, and afterward told Pop & Hiss that “We really ought to use some more of his solo music in the Monkees” the next time the surviving members decide to do any more reunion shows.
Here's one example of the literate introductions Nesmith crafted, worth hearing despite the fan's-eye-view shaky video that was uploaded to YouTube: