Somehow Ray Davies, and his music, flew under the radar for a few too many.
Sure, there was a decent crowd at the Dodge Theatre to see the former Kinks frontman play last night, but not nearly as many as one may expect for a rock legend on this level.
Sadly, a great number of people (some of whom are undoubtedly Up On The Sun readers) believe that once a musician's hair has a little gray in it, the heyday is over, and it's time to throw in the towel. These people would have you believe that "old goats" have nothing new or interesting to say, thus making their music, and any live shows they play, irrelevant and unimportant.
Not so, dear reader!
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Davies is that even though many of his songs were written while he was an angry and insecure teenager, they're relevant. And, more importantly, good. His thoughtful lyrics challenge the listener with a strong critique of society. His "working class" guitar sound is still driving, piercing, straight-ahead, in-your-face, no-holds-barred, but by today's standards still clear and thick. Davies gets dirty, but in a controlled sort of way. And while his voice may have gotten a little bit more rough around the edges, remarkably he still sounds a lot like he did in his Kinks' days.
The first portion of the show consisted of him telling stories, and dueting with guitarist Bill Shanley. There were even some sing along moments, but because of his lighthearted approach and decision not to take himself seriously the entire time, it worked out well without felling forced or awkward.
The second portion of the show featured the gritty rock n roll Davies is famous for, and with the help of his opening band, The 88.
The 88 get major props for playing perfectly constructed pop songs in a light and endearing manner that just left you wanting more. The band blew through the Kinks' greatest hits. This included a high energy version of "All Day And All Of The Night," which as an angsty yet hopelessly romantic teenager, I was convinced would be my wedding song if I ever decided to get married, though I swore I wouldn't. He even did a really nice version of "Celluloid Heroes," which seemed to leave much of the audience grasping for the words, further indicating what a phenomenally underrated song it is.
The show closed out with the gender-bender classic "Lola," which even the too-cool-to-listen-to-anything-that-could-be-classified-as-classic-rock kids would at least recognize from The Raincoats at least. While the die-hards were blown away by the show, hopefully the younger crowd will one day grow a better appreciation. It's amazing how his lyrics are still provocative and subversive. Ultimately, the age of the song and what time period its aesthetic fits into is unimportant. There is still something to be said for the sweet simplicity of three chord pop rock. And Ray Davies is legendary: a genius of his time and ours.
Last Night: Ray Davies at the Dodge Theatre.
Better Than: Most indie rock shows where people are too cool to smile.
Random Details: Davies made a joke about his brother Dave, with whom he is notriously known for constantly fighting with, saying, "I'm still waiting for the phone call from my brother to go on tour. He's too cheap to call me." Also, Arizona musicians Roger Clyne and Al Perry were in attendance.
Personal Bias: I am a Kinks fan, I absolutely love political and thought provoking lyrics, and I hate when people under the age of 30 don't have at least an appreciation for the music that made their music what it is. I was pretty excited to see him.
Further Listening/Watching: Celluloid Heroes