Michael Nesmith Remains a Houston-Born Treasure

Michael Nesmith can still conjure up magic alone with his guitar.EXPAND
Michael Nesmith can still conjure up magic alone with his guitar.
Photo by Cory Garcia
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Michael Nesmith and the First National Band Redux
The Heights Theater
September 7, 2K18

I’ve learned not to expect honesty from the artists standing on stage. Honesty isn’t exactly rare, but you sit through enough rehearsed patter and you soon realize that just because they claim your town has been the loudest of the tour doesn’t make it factual. You take the honesty you get, and you accept the lies as a good excuse for the crowd to go wild.

Which is to say it was very endearing when, a few songs into his set with the First National Band Redux, Michael Nesmith explained that the reason his voice had been cracking from time to time was that doctors had to cut him open a few months back and move some stuff around. It was a reference to his recent quadruple bypass surgery that ended up bringing an earlier tour this year to a premature end and had some wondering if this show would even happen.

I give all the credit in the world to Nesmith moving forward for with these dates — Houston was night one of this first journey around the country with the other band he’s known for in roughly forever — when it would have been much easier to stay home, and I give him even more credit for getting up on stage and really caring about the performance and not phoning things in even a little bit.

Nesmith is a showman with a sense of humor that seems just about as sharp as it did back when he was a regular feature on television. The music of the First National Band Redux might have its roots in country and western, but even now Nesmith is still flirting with arrangements that mean there are a few rockers in the mix.

But the real magic of the show was when he stood on stage alone, with his guitar and a tear or two in his eyes, playing the songs that he says showed him how performing live could be magical. I’ll confess, his solo version of “Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)” almost had me in tears with its simple beauty.

Michael Nesmith, despite what popular culture might tell you otherwise, is a great musician who had one of the most interesting arcs in music history. I don’t know when the day will come when The Monkees will get the critical reevaluation they properly deserve, but I do know Michael Nesmith is a treasure, one that I’m glad we still have around.

Personal Bias: In a recent interview in Rolling Stone, Nesmith expressed his love for vaporwave, which means he is forever my favorite Monkee now. Sorry Micky.

The Crowd: Plenty of obvious Monkees fans, but also plenty of people with a deep, sincere love of the solo work of Nesmith. Pretty broad age spectrum too, which is cool because it means younger folks are discovering how awesome those First National records are.

Overheard in the Crowd: “The line starts here and ends over there,” said the merch person, who was not having any line cutting while she was in charge.

Random Notebook Dump: This was my first visit to The Heights Theater and I must say that it’s a really interesting venue. Sightlines are great and it’s got a good, intimate vibe, but the floor seats are awfully uncomfortable. Having to constantly shift around to get comfortable is a bummer, but other than that it’s a real nice place.

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