Ray Davies at the Fitzgerald Theater, 11/08/11

Categories: Last Night
Ray Davies 1.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen
Ray Davies
November 8, 2011
Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul


From the moment Ray Davies stepped onto the Fitzgerald Theater's stage Tuesday evening, it was clear we caught him on a good night. The notoriously mercurial Kinks frontman even announced as much to the sold-out crowd at the start of his engaging 90-minute set, "I'm in one of those good moods today. It's good to be here." It was quite clear that he wasn't just saying that, as his jocular disposition continued throughout his engrossing performance, injecting all of Davies' stellar songs with a playful, exuberant spirit that bands half his age would kill for.

The first half of the concert featured just Davies and his longtime sideman Bill Shanley on acoustic guitars, giving the Kinks material a muted but graceful touch, and allowing Ray's outsized personality to shine through. His introductions to the songs, and his humorous asides during them, really imbued the numbers with a fresh, youthful attitude. There was no dust on these dynamic batch of tunes, nor was this a geriatric cash-grab by a musician who should have quit the music game long ago. This was a born entertainer connecting with his faithful fans once again.

The start of the show featured boisterous crowd-singalongs that were initiated by Davies himself, who encouraged us all to join him on "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "Sunny Afternoon," and "Dead End Street." After one particularly loud ovation overcame him, Davies exclaimed, "It's for you, this is all for you. It's because of you I did it." He was essentially telling his devoted longtime supporters that these songs were as much theirs as they were his, and reveling in the joy his material was bringing to us. It was a genuine, touching moment in a night simply filled with them.

Ray Davies 2.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen
Ray Davies 3.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen

"This song is proof that you can write a song about other people being happy together and suddenly you get happy yourself," was how Davies endearingly introduced a deeply moving rendition of "Waterloo Sunset." I had been waiting a lifetime to hear Ray play this song, and it totally melted me. It's such a gorgeous, simple song, but the raw emotions of the number hang on every poignant word. It was a lovely highlight of the show.

Midway through a feisty version of "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion," Davies quipped, "Thinking about this song, it's no wonder the Kinks were banned from the U.S. for four years." It takes a talented performer to make those type of witticisms not sound forced, but Davies pulls it off simply because it's a natural part of who he is. He couldn't put a stop to it if he tried.

The show continued on strongly, with a raucous version of "Apeman" quickly followed by a tender rendition of "See My Friends." Davies had plenty of nice, candid things to say about his brother Dave throughout the performance, introducing a stunning version of "Long Way From Home" by warmly telling us "This is a song I wrote for my brother." Midway through the show, after teasing us with just a snippet of "Victoria," Davies cheekily held up a copy of his "Unauthorized Biography" X-Ray. But rather than being a cheesy bit of self-promotion, he touchingly quoted the opening passage from the book from memory: "mediocrity rises...and being quite mediocre myself, I rose." Indeed he did.

Ray Davies 4.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen
Ray Davies 6.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen

Halfway through a rollicking version of "20th Century Man," the California quartet the 88 (who served as the opening act as well) came out to join the duo, injecting the rest of the performance with a electric grit and vibrancy.  "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" was particularly explosive, while "Tired Of Waiting For You" was given a modern touch by the young band.

Davies then told us a story: "A girl and I broke up under tragic circumstances. She left me for another man. That fact was confirmed to me by my best friend, who was the other man she ran away with. She broke my heart, but at least I got a song out of it." And oh what a song he got out of it. "Nothing In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl," was just gloriously moving, with Davies telling us that the song was used in the great German director Wim Wenders' classic film The American Friend. As the stirring song drew to a close, Ray had the last laugh by telling us, "After all this time, I can't even remember her name."

Davies dedicated a riotous version of "Till The End Of The Day" to "the late, great Alex Chilton. He was a real southern gentleman. He came to London to record this song with me just before he died. I miss him dearly." What a tasteful tribute from one great songwriter to another. The crowd, who remained seated throughout the lively second half of the show, finally rose when commanded by Ray, who told us to stand up as he paid tribute to his brother with a rowdy version of "All Day And All Of The Night" that was another clear highlight of the set.

Ray Davies 5.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen
Ray Davies 7.jpg
Photo By Steve Cohen

After an impassioned version of "Celluloid Heroes," Davies joked that "the band doesn't even know we're going to play this one tonight" before a jaunty run-through of "Muswell Hillbilly." Davies then went on to tell us how he was playing a song in the living room and his then 16-year-old brother Dave came in from the kitchen and said, "What the fuck is all that about, then?" "He played it with me into rock 'n roll history," was how Ray put it, before tearing into a scruffy, fiery version of "You Really Got Me" which closed out the main set with a jolt of energy and attitude.

After telling us he'd "See us next June with a new album," Davies briefly left the stage while the band stayed behind. And while they set the upbeat rhythm of the lone encore "Low Budget," Ray returned to the stage and sprayed the first row with beer, obviously still in a festive mood. He even dropped the mic while he was shaking hands with fans while trying to sing the spirited number, but carried on as the song reached its wild conclusion. "Don't write me off. Because I was once a man of some substance," Davies pleaded with us before he walked off stage. Don't worry, Mr. Davies, after an entertaining, splendid performance like that one, no one will be writing you off anytime soon.

Critic's Bias: Longtime fan of the Kinks, but for one reason or another I'd never seen Ray play live.

The Crowd: Old school Kinks fans who were thrilled to be out on the town seeing Ray for the night.

Overheard In The Crowd: "I hope I look that good when I'm his age." "Ray's not that much older than you, man."

Random Notebook Dump: The doors for the show were supposed to be at 6:30, with music starting at 7:30. They were still soundchecking as the crowd gathered uncomfortably in the lobby, with doors not opening until well past 7, and the 88 didn't get on until after 8. "Lola," "Misfits," "Full Moon" and a few other songs were on the setlist, but sadly went unplayed. I'm hoping it wasn't due to time constraints (the show ended right at 10:30), but we did end up getting 22 songs, which is what the original setlist had on it as well.

For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Steve Cohen.

Setlist:

I Need You

I'm Not Like Everybody Else

Sunny Afternoon

Dead End Street

Waterloo Sunset

Dedicated Follower Of Fashion

Apeman

See My Friends

A Long Way From Home

Victoria (Snippet)

20th Century Man

David Watts

This Is Where I Belong

Where Have All The Good Times Gone

Tired Of Waiting

Money Talks (Snippet)

Nothing In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl

Too Much On My Mind

Till The End Of The Day

All Day And All Of The Night

Celluloid Heroes

Muswell Hillbilly

You Really Got Me

Low Budget (Encore)


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