Sunday, March 14, 2010

Well Respected Man Celebrates Kinky Past

Concert Review

Ray Davies
w/ The 88
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
March 13, 2010
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I've been to over 450 concerts and what makes the great ones great are a preponderance of excellent songs and a healthy (but not exhaustive) dose of interaction between performer and audience that goes beyond the music itself. The former might seem stupendously obvious and the latter might sound unnecessary, but my favorite shows almost always meet both criteria (and sometimes a third, which I'll speak to in a bit).

On Friday and Saturday nights I attended two rock concerts that were about as different as can be, with their relative merits, IMHO, illustrating the above statement. Friday I saw Muse (review here), a current, relatively young British trio that filled the United Center. They had a multimillion dollar stage set up, impressive visuals including lasers & lights galore and a powerful sound that I really enjoyed, in part. Unfortunately after 10+ years and 5 albums, they only could fill about half (at best) of their 100 minutes onstage with truly top-notch material. And they virtually never spoke to the audience.

Saturday, I saw one of rock's true legends, Ray Davies, former lead singer, principal songwriter and rhythm guitarist for The Kinks, an original British Invasion band elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. The Kinks' heyday was clearly the 1960s; on a 5-star scale, the great AllMusic website gives 5 or 4-1/2 stars to seven Kinks albums released between 1965-1971, but the same distinction to just one studio album (1978's Misfits) from 1972-1994. But while comparatively not quite as brilliant throughout the rest of a mostly non-stop Kinks and solo career, not only has Davies remained an excellent songwriter into his 60s, he had accumulated a songbook as deep as nearly anyone's by the time he was 27 years old.

And I, and nearly everyone at the Riv, came out to hear a heavy dose of Kinks Klassics.

After a likable but unremarkable opening set by a 4-piece band from LA called The 88, Ray took the stage with acoustic guitar in hand, accompanied by only one other musician, a guy named Bill Shanley who alternated between acoustic and electric guitar. After they played about 22 songs, all but 2 being Kinks chestnuts, The 88 joined them for 5 full band tunes.

Unlike Muse, no arena rock show, no lasers or fancy risers or video. But also unlike Muse, and most other artists for that matter, from any era, every song played was excellent. And as the guy who basically invented VH1 Storytellers, Ray told stories, spoke of Kinks history, introduced several songs and did more than enough to ensure we knew he knew he was in Chicago, not Cleveland.

As one of a few minor quibbles, referencing my third criteria for a truly great concert--which is making every night unique in some way, typically by changing up the setlist a la personal favorites Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam--Ray seemed to play essentially the same set list as on other stops of his current tour. And especially as someone who's seen him 4 times now in the last 4 years, he could easily sprinkle in many more different Kinks Klassics (and even solo songs) than have routinely filled his performances of late. Though to be fair, he did freshly turn me onto I Need You, Nothin' In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl and dug pretty deep into the Kinks Kanon.

So aside from mixing it up a bit more to appease hardcore fanatics who check setlists and have seen him multiple times--though believe me, I doubt I'm the only one when it comes to the small but devoted fanbase of Kinkophiles --Ray Davies put on an entirely engaging & enjoyable performance, filled with wonderful songs. Sometimes less is more and more is less. More or less.

This is the set list from last night (with possibly a couple omissions):

This Is Where I Belong
You Really Got Me
I Need You
Where Have All The Good Times Gone
Till The End Of The Day
In A Moment
Victoria
Dedicated Follower of Fashion
20th Century Man
The Tourist
Apeman
Two Sisters
The Hard Way
See My Friends
I'm Not Like Everybody Else
Too Much On My Mind
Nothin' In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl
A Well Respected Man
Sunny Afternoon
Tired Of Waiting For You
Set Me Free
All Day And All Of The Night
---Encore (with The 88)
You Really Got Me
David Watts
Dead End Street
Low Budget
Lola

Video of Where Have All the Good Times Gone from the other night in Scranton:

1 comment:

Ken said...

Thanks for the review and set list, I missed Ray this time, but have seen him, Dave or the Kinks many times.

I saw you list the Jam first as the band that should be in the R&R Hall of Fame, could not agree more, but know it will never happen, just appreciate that Weller just got the NME Godlike Genius award.