It’s great to see a hero. I saw songwriter Warren Zevon several times before he left us. I try to catch -favorite John Hiatt whenever he comes through. But then there’s Ray Davies, the master storyteller. He’s just the best. Always has been, as far as I’m concerned. I saw The Kinks twice back in the day, and I’ve caught Ray several times on his solo tours. Once was in a very intimate performance at the Carriage House in Villa Mantalovo, which was and remains my concert mecca. Last time I saw Ray was at an ill-fated Mountain Winery show that’s still made me swear off that venue forever (read: chatty, rude crowd).
I always try to follow the "write what you know" idea. Davies wrote about impending suburbia in the London suburbs in songs like "Muswell Hillbillies". A I think few songs can paint a vivid a picture of the Thames like his "Waterloo Sunset".
(I won't claim to ever be *close* to the writer that Davies was and is, but I still try to follow that motif. Our now-defunct local drive-in theater was the inspiration for my new CD. And development encroaching on farmland - or our very important local airport - has been the basis for more than a few of my songs.)
Last week my pal Clark jokingly texted me and said, “Too bad you’re not close, you could go with me to see Ray Davies at the Filmore.” I immediately called and said, “You have Ray Davies tix, and you didn’t call me first?” So I got my invite.
Yeah, it was the Filmore, which (in Clark’s sharp, observatory words) is “a lot of work to see a show”. It’s standing room only, and half the crowd are carrying drinks. (The other half are spilling them.) But with the right artist and the right audience, it’s a perfect place. The crowd was there for Ray.
A very fine pop/rock outfit called The 88 opened the night. Ray started his show with a duo set sprinkled with hits (well, they’re all hits if you’re a fan) including “I Need You”, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, and “Sunny Afternoon”.
Every song was a singalong. Ray’s been working this wonderful material for 40 years, and he knows when to prompt a crowd and when to let them just run with it. Note: There IS a bit of irony in two thousand people singing “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”, but it totally makes sense when that same mass is screaming along to “This Is Where I Belong”.
The 88, who we quickly learned are doubling as Ray’s road band, quietly joined him during “Dead End Street”, and the rest of the show was in full-on Kinks mode. This setlist posted earlier gives you an idea just how many great songs can fit into one night…even if he didn’t have room for “Days” or “A Gallon of Gas”.
The night closed with two encores. One was Ray’s tribute to the records Sleepwalker, Misfits, and Low Budget. I’ve NEVER heard him play “Misfits” live. If I was in a self-confessional mode, I’d write that it’s my very favorite song and it literally brought tears to my eyes when he played it. But I’m not, so I won’t.
The final encore was a surprise to some, since the lights were on and the house music was up. Clark pointed out, “They haven’t taken the mics yet. And Ray hasn’t played Lola. (I don’t think Ray gets paid until he plays “Lola”, which is likely the same dilemma Sting faces if he forgets “Roxanne.”)
Good shows make you want to go re-listen to the artist’s albums. The great ones inspire you run home and start writing. Where’s my guitar and notepad?