EmptyBeacon Theater, New York
Tuesday, April 8
Considering the storms he's weathered, the sheer joviality expressed by Ray Davies onstage is positively rejuvenating. In the midst of a short tour to promote his excellent second solo disc "Working Man's Cafe," the former Kinks frontman performed with the energy and enthusiasm of a man half his age.
He led the show off, appropriately enough, with the relatively obscure "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," and during the next two-plus hours the venerable rocker proceeded to demonstrate just that. Freely alternating between selections from his two solo albums and plenty of choice nuggets from one of the most fruitful catalogs in rock history, he delivered a show that surely pleased casual and obsessive fans alike.
Davies performed with a tight four-piece backing band that managed to rock in all the right places, and he reminisced about his former group. "I'm not allowed to mention the 'K' word," he joked, adding that he's agreed to pay a $10 fine for every time he does so. During the course of the evening, he managed to rack up quite a bill.
The recent songs, though lacking the instantly memorable hooks of the old, are nonetheless marvelously well-observed, sophisticated compositions that showcase his melodic and lyrical gifts. While lumping a bunch of them together during an acoustic set in the show's second half sapped the evening of some of it's momentum, such songs as "In a Moment," "One More Time" and "Vietnam Cowboys" merit serious attention.
But it was, of course, the Kinks classics that the crowd was screaming for, and they weren't disappointed by the rousing renditions of such numbers as "A Well Respected Man," "Sunny Afternoon" (a song for which he professed initial shame at having written), "Come Dancing," "Tired of Waiting for You," "All Day and All of the Night," "Low Budget" and encores that included "Lola," "Days" and "Victoria." He also paid warm tribute to his estranged brother Dave before effectively replicating his classic guitar riff in "You Really Got Me."
Davies clearly was in a playful mood, frequently encouraging audience sing-alongs and clap-alongs and showing his disappointment when they didn't meet his standards. For his song "The Tourist," he proudly sported a Union Jack blazer, only to take it off to reveal American stars and stripes on the inner lining. It was a perfect symbol for the dichotomies that have made him one of the most compelling figures in rock history.