“I’ve always been brought up to think of myself as a faceless individual,” said Ray Davies midway through his show at The Egg and just before playing “20th Century Man,” his 1971 Kinks song that laments the alienation of modern life.
It was a striking statement. You don’t expect to hear such self-effacing words from an elder statesman of rock and roll – and author of more brilliantly unique songs than just about any musical artist alive.
But, then again, who else but Ray Davies would say that? So many of his songs capture the bittersweet, and oftentimes very British, existence of ordinary life – the frustrations and joys of everyday people.
During his sold-out show at The Egg, the Kinks founder played a number of those uniquely British and idiosyncratic, but glorious, songs with a set that drew heavily from the mid- to late- ‘60s period some call the Kinks’ golden age.
Davies was seated on a stool with an unplugged blue guitar, accompanied only by Irish guitarist Bill Shanley for an acoustic first half of the show, which included the pleading, insistent opener “I Need You,” the sardonic “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” and the powerfully dark “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”
It was a participatory event, with Davies – warmly, but perhaps a bit too democratically – encouraging the audience to sing-along with nearly every chorus. “How does it go?” he asked, playing dumb to incite a crowd recitation of the hardly forgettable chorus to “Victoria,” his British-monarchy baiting classic.
But the stripped-down portion of the night also bestowed many illuminating, oftentimes humble insights from Davies about his classic songs. “We rarely do this. It’s a very strange English song,” said Davies before “Autumn Almanac,” his admittedly peculiar, but yet still beautiful, 1967 tune about gardening.
The charming “Sunny Afternoon” was just a song Davies said he wrote for his father to sing down at the pub. And although the gorgeous “Waterloo Sunset” eventually became one of his best loved and most acclaimed songs, at the time he wrote it Davies was thinking of it not as a single but rather as part of a whole record (the strongly British-themed “Something Else”).
It was Davies’ second performance at The Egg in two years, but a different one, with this his chance to perform songs from “See My Friends,” his 2010 album that plucked songs from his back catalogue to be re-recorded as duets with well-known artists, from Bruce Springsteen to Black Francis.
And unlike his previous Egg show, which found Davies waxing nostalgically and rather effusively about his estranged brother and former Kink-mate Dave, the only two references to Dave on this night were far more scathing.
Before playing the psychedelic-tinged “See My Friends” – a collaboration with indie-band Spoon more recently but an older song said to be about the death of Davies’ sister during his youth – Davies took a dig at Dave’s new age inclinations. “It’s about moving on to another world, which is my brother’s specialty,” he said acerbically.
And Davies said “Long Way from Home,” which he re-recorded with Lucinda Williams for the new album, was written long ago for his brother Dave. Even today, the song’s lyrics, about a younger sibling who’s drastically lost his way, were devastating.
Davies’ full band – which included drummer Damon Wilson, former Kinks keyboardist Ian Gibbons and bassist Dick Nolan – charged out onstage partway through “20th Century Man,” and the rest of the night held plenty of wonderful moments, including the elegiac “Days,” the rousing “Celluloid Heroes” and the timeless classic, “You Really Got Me.”
Although only a duo, David Wax Museum – who once played downstairs at Valentine’s – filled The Egg with warm, pleasing sounds during a festive set inspired by traditional Mexican folk music. Fiddler Suz Slezak whacked a donkey jawbone with a stick for percussion (it sounded like rattling teeth or castanets) while the band’s namesake David Wax played jarana, a distinctive Mexican stringed instrument.
Review by Kirsten Ferguson
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Greg Haymes’ review at The Times Union
Excerpt from Michael Hochanadel’s review at The Daily Gazette: “As rock momentum pumped up the volume, the show seemed to lose focus, some songs feeling perfunctory and band intros rushed. However, ‘Nothing In the World,’ recalling Davies’ first romantic break-up, summoned the band’s full energy and falsetto flourishes by Davies. Then ‘Celluloid Heroes,’ powered by fans’ recognition and singalong, revved things up. Kinks’ riff-blasts ‘Til the End of the Day’ and ‘All Day and All of the Night’ rocked the house, Davies jumping up and down and pumping the crowd with his familiar ‘Way-O!’ chant. ‘You Really Got Me’ wrapped up everything. It wasn’t the Kinks, but it was an elder statesman tending to his legacy before fans happy to help.”
RAY DAVIES SET LIST
(with Bill Shanley)
I Need You
I’m Not Like Everybody Else
Dedicated Follower of Fashion
See My Friends
Long Way from Home
(with full band)
20th Century Man
This Is Where I Belong
Where Have All the Good Times Gone
Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl
Too Much on My Mind
‘Til the End of the Day
All Day and All of the Night
You Really Got Me