Yes, Peter Tork of the Monkees can play

"How do you even know the Monkees' music?"

"Channel 32," he said, "after school."

A big portion of the audience appeared to be in his cohort, youngish fans nurtured on Monkees reruns. This was both strange and encouraging, evidence that music of the '60s will survive the apocalypse.

Then there he was on stage. Peter Tork. At 71.

His hair was thinner than my idol's, but he still had some, and he looked fit in black jeans and a black open-necked shirt. The Channel 32 crowd roared. So did the original Monkees crowd.

He picked up a guitar. He played. He was really good. He picked up a banjo. Played. Really well. He sat at the keyboard. Not bad.

He played the blues, imitated Elvis, and did enough of the Monkees repertoire to placate those who desperately needed to sing "Daydream Believer" with him.

He told compelling stories, too, all of them rolled into the autobiography that he clearly wanted to convey: Yes, Peter Tork can play, and he can own the stage, alone.

He talked about growing up in a house filled with classical music; about moving to Greenwich Village in its folk heyday; about heading to L.A., where a friend named Stephen Stills helped him land a job on a TV show about a band called the Monkees.

He recalled his frustration that the members of the band were originally denied the chance to play on their records.

"We don't want what you have to offer," a producer told him when he complained. "You're not the Lovin' Spoonful."

On Sunday, he was witty, agile, energetic and sufficiently self-deprecating to balance his caustic streak. He won a standing ovation, fueled by more than nostalgia.

Afterward, scores of fans waited to have him sign a new CD or whatever memento they'd brought. Gail and I hung around for a while, hoping for a close-up glimpse, but gave up early.

We decided we could close that circle of life without standing in line, but left happy to know we hadn't been crazy to be Peter girls.

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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