2.24.09 RAY DAVIES
Might Turn Into a Steady Job
November 24, 2009
This here review also appears in Metroland's annual Wednesday Thanksgiving issue.
Ray Davies comes from that strange time when rock stars were skinny, wore tight pants, and were elegantly androgynous enough to be dangerous. Free of ironic facial hair, ironic eyeglasses, and ironic clothing. When rocks stars were artists, wrote great songs, worked the crowd, and cared. While most of his ilk have descended into self-parody, sad pandering, or work the sansa-belt retirement circuit, Davies still rocks it. He’s still the best.
Monday’s show, before a packed house, was a curated selection from Davies’ staggering catalog, picked to satiate the casual listener as well as the die hard fan, leaning heavily on ‘60’s and early ‘70’s Kinks material and Davies’ excellent recent solo work, and all but ignoring the 70’s theatrical and the ‘80’s arena rock stuff. It was an endearing, heart-melting show; and there were enough great songs left unplayed to populate at least two more.
Davies laid the gauntlet down from the git, opening with seated acoustic versions of “I Need You” and “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, two non-singles from the ‘60’s which, like much of the Kinks’ early work, have grown in power and significance through the decades. For the better part of an hour, he remained seated, dropping nuggets like “Waterloo Sunset” and “Better Things”, and then the band joined him for “Celluloid Heroes”, for my money one of the best songs written about anything ever; the song sparkled; then things took off.
The remainder of the show went from delicate (the ultra-obscure “Moments” from the “Percy” soundtrack) to as gloriously loud and bombastic as anything I’ve seen at the Egg (“Till the End of the Day”, “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” and the show-closing “Twentieth Century Man.”). Davies was in terrific voice, hysterical between songs, and, at 65, ever the rock and roll trooper. The band was spectacular, with drummer Damon Wilson taking no prisoners and guitarist Bill Shanley ranging from Knopfler-esqe sweetness to Dave Davies-like crunch.
The long, long encore ramped it up even more. We even got a little “Banana Boat Song.” But the moment came with the elegiac “Days”, a 1968 single that didn’t come close to charting here. First verse sweet a cappella, second verse quiet acoustic. Just as the song appeared over, Davies started banging on his guitar and the band simply landed, power ballad-style, with Davies thanking us: “Thank you for the days, those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.” It’s been years since I’ve been this devastated at a concert.
Which brings us to brother Dave. Ray touchingly brought him up at least four times during the show; in some ways the show was one long plea to Dave Davies. Ray wants his band back. For the love of god, Dave, bury the hatchet and grant his wish.