Ray Davies

March 24, 2010
Grove Of Anaheim
Anaheim, CA

Review by Shawn Perry

John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Pete Townshend and — Ray Davies. Six of the most important songwriters of the British Invasion, yet Davies is often denied the prestige and praise the others enjoy. Make no mistake about it: he’s right up there with the best of them.

During his solo performance at the Grove of Anaheim, a show on the docket of his 2010 Winter/Spring tour, ending its U.S. leg at the end of March, Davies laid it all out — impressions of neighbors and politicians, his desire to regroup the Kinks (“I’m waiting for a phone call”), and bedazzling renderings of some of the most beloved songs ever written.

The 88, a power pop foursome, ably opened the show and played a satisfactory 30-minute set. They’d return to back Davies later in the evening. Around 9:30, Ray Davies, accompanied by guitarist Bill Shanley, appeared on stage and proceeded to run through an astonishing set of Kinks classics, solo pieces and a few odds and ends.

Opening with “This Is Where I Belong,” from the Kinks 1966 album Face To Face, Davies sang each verse with youthful conviction, his voice seemingly untarnished by the ravages of time. He carried on with a couple more oldies from the mid 60s — “I Need You” and “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” — before saying a few words and meandering into “In The Moment,” from his 2007 solo album, Working Man's Café. Shanley plucked out an array of sweet lines on an electric hollow-body and gave this number — one of the few this evening not from another century — a beautiful sheen.

Davies also rolled out “The Tourist”— another fairly new one from Other People’s Lives, his 2006 solo record — written about his experiences living, working and surviving in New Orleans.

Mostly, however, it was all about the “K” word — from “Victoria” and “20th Century Man” (He read from his autobiography between the two) to “Apeman,” “The Hard Way” and the rather obscure “Two Sisters” from 1967, which Davies explained was vaguely about the relationship he had (and maybe still has) with his brother, Kinks guitarist Dave Davies.

Davies spoke of the late Alex Chilton, whom he had worked with, as well as the Knack’s Doug Fieger, who passed away in February (2010). The morose “See My Friends” evoked pastoral images and pleasant surroundings, which may have led to the idea of Davies playing a suite of his songs used in television and movies.

He set up the scene for each one. “I'm Not Like Everybody Else,” originally released as a B-side of “Sunny Afternoon,” was featured in an episode of The Sopranos. “Too Much On My Mind” appeared on the Rushmore soundtrack and “A Well Respected Man” was on the Juno soundtrack. Let’s keep those royalty checks coming in.

Just after “Sunny Afternoon” and before a nonstop sing-along of “Tired Of Waiting,” “Set Me Free” and “All Day And All Of The Night,” Davies introduced another recent song, from The Kinks Choral Collection CD. Recorded in 2009 with the Crouch End Festival Chorus, Davies wrote “Postcards From London” especially for the record and recorded it as a duet with ex-wife, Chrissie Hynde.

The Pretenders singer was nowhere to be seen at the Grove, but Davies and Shanley kept the venue entranced and pining for more as they finished up and exited the stage. Then the 88 showed up, Davies and Shanley returned, and the joint started rocking.

Davies led the band through a winning five-pack of Kinks favorites — “You Really Got Me,” “David Watts,” “Celluloid Heroes,” “Low Budget” and “Lola.” By the end of the performance, everyone was on their feet, reaching toward Davies as he distributed a random half-dozen high-fives. It was like the Forum in the early 80s, when I last saw the singer with the Kinks.

Clearly, without the Kinks in service, Davies is about as close to the genuine article as one could hope for. He continues to build on the legacy, with a planned collaborations album of Kinks songs on the way, as well as tracks he recorded with Alex Chilton and Lucinda Williams. There are also plans in the next year for major reissues of Kinks albums from the 70s and 80s.

The big question, of course, is whether Ray will ever be able to persuade his ailing brother Dave to step out one more time and play a Kinks gig or two. Maybe he could give Mick Avory a call too. He will always be the best drummer the Kinks ever had. If Peter Quaife doesn’t want to play bass, give John Dalton or Jim Rodford — all still alive — a ring. Yeah, a Kinks reunion show would be a great way to see Ray Davies again.

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