RAY DAVIES, YORK GRAND OPERA HOUSE, SUNDAY 25 SEP 2005
Have you had that feeling when there is simply nowhere on earth you would rather be than where you are at that moment? That happened to me on Sunday night. Young Devilfish and I went to York Grand Opera House to see the first night of the UK tour with the one and only RAY DAVIES and his band.
Given the well documented trials and tribulations that Ray has been through over the past year or two, this was such a tremendously triumphant return. I’m not one for exaggeration (and he is a musical idol), but this was one of the finest concerts I have ever witnessed in my life. And, just as important, Ray fuckin’ loved every minute of it too!
Most of the 2 hours 15 minutes was magical old stuff. This was sprinkled with newer work including his first EP for his new label (V2 Records) released on Monday. ‘The Tourist’ has 4 tracks which are a taster from his first proper solo studio album ‘Other People's Lives’ which is scheduled for release early next year.
This long-in-the-works EP comprises: ‘The Tourist’, – which talks about how deprivation, degeneration and despair is never far away from any Tourists - supping G&T's in their nearby 5 star hotels singing ‘La Vida Loca!. There's also the pathos of ‘Yours Truly, Confused N10’, recorded originally with Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra in 2002, a remixed version of ‘London Song’ and the track 'Storyteller' - both from Davies's wonderful ‘Storyteller’ album collection of acoustic tracks and spoken dialogue.
Ray waxed lyrical between his songs - including how (40-something years ago now) The Kinks were turned down by every record Company in Britain. They were considered ‘too bluesy’, told that Ray’s vocals were too ‘nasally’ (much to his hilarity now, as he pinches his nose), and that Dave Davies’s guitar sounded “like a dog barking!” The slashing of the ‘little green amp’ for that famous “3rd single” – ‘You Really Got Me’ – was of course, the big breakthrough. “I think we were the original DIY rock 'n' roll band. With the greatest respect to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, The Kinks made it by being a ragamuffin outfit.”
It seemed clear that whilst on stage, Ray’s brother Dave was very much in the forefront of Ray’s mind ... (You’ll recall that both Davies brothers suffered much misfortune last year. In January, Ray was shot in the leg while chasing thieves who had snatched the purse of his companion in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In June, Dave suffered a stroke in an elevator at the offices of the BBC where he had been promoting his latest solo album. He was hospitalised and released in late August).
Ironically, Dave's stroke has resulted in a brotherly reconcilliation. He is living with Ray and working closely with his elder brother to regain his guitar skills. It seems that the two brothers are in relatively good relationship - something considered abnormal for 2 decades. "I'm spending lots of time with Dave," said Ray. "I'm coaching him along as best I can to re-learn the guitar. Actually, we're getting along better than ever. As soon as he can play guitar again, then it's back to the old hatred," he added, laughing, "It's the only thing that lasts." Apparently, when Dave's stroke occurred last year, the two siblings were seriously considering a reunion to coincide with the 40th anniversary of their first number 1 hit ("You Really Got Me"). However, they still have a year in front because of Ray's tight touring schedule behind his new album and the on-going recovery of his brother.
----- This from Monday’s 'York Evening Press' .. Dedicated followers of Ray Davies filled the Grand Opera House at York last night and witnessed something quite sensational. It was the first gig of his latest UK tour and this inspired icon of British popular music brought the house down. This was not a case of simply churning out the old hits from the sixties for the locals to gently foot tap along to. Ray was not going to let anyone get away with that.
These were his songs, each one carefully crafted, each one fiercely believed in, and each one delivered with an energy and passion that many present day bands less than half his age cannot come close to. He is possibly the greatest singer songwriter this county has produced, influencing many from the likes of The Who to The Jam, and eclipsing others, including McCartney. In short, his catalogue is quite phenomenal.
Davies's music has attitude, humour, and an edge that cannot be ignored, and this is especially prevalent in his latest work which is eminently worth listening to.
Clearly up for the night and on top form, the engaging Mr Davies confirmed his credentials with an awesome performance. Unique can be applied without hesitation to this timeless talent. ------
Anyway, I can't recall the exact setlist order – he didn’t stick to one anyway - but the night included: .. I'm Not Like Everybody Else, The Hard Way, ‘Til The End Of The Day, Where Have All The Good Times Gone?, Yours Truly Confused N10, The Tourist, London Song, Stand Up Comic, 20th Century Man, Set Me Free, Tired Of Waiting, Autumn Almanac, Dead End Street, Sunny Afternoon, Village Green, Picture Book, Animal Farm, Oklahoma USA, I Go To Sleep, David Watts, Lola, All Day And All Of The Night, Days, Waterloo Sunset and You Really Got Me.
Between songs, Ray mentioned how so many of his old forgotten tunes seem to be appearing on adverts these days – often without his knowledge. “Picture Book has become known as the ‘Hewlett Packard song”! He went on saying how he’d seen an ad for French railways recently, and swore he thought he knew the background music. His publisher wasn’t aware, but Ray persisted and then remembered that it was a song he wrote about love when he was 19. He then played the most haunting delicate version of ‘I Go To Sleep’ with the band. It was just breathtaking. (Perhaps he’d forgotten that ex-wife Chrissie Hynde had had a hit with it with The Pretenders?) He then played hit after hit - with the odd forgotten lyric! (He made a joke about it being a night to tell people “you were there the night Ray Davies forgot the words to ‘Sunny Afternoon.” ("It must be my dementia!" he quipped).
As it was all so top drawer, it’s hard to pick highlights, but here’s a few; … Days (“for Kirsty MacColl’) left me with a quivering bottom lip, David Watts (he just sprung it on the band) was incredible - esp for me, the old Jam fan!, Autumn Almanac (“An interesting ditty full of chord changes, and the only top 5 hit about gardening”), Lola (prefaced by his hilarious tales of his beloved New Orleans (“where the music will play again”)), Waterloo Sunset (After the line, “as long as I gaze at Waterloo Sunset, I am in Paradise”, Ray looked up at the adoring crowd in this old English Victorian Theatre, nodded and said, “And I am in Paradise.” Gulp!). Sunny Afternoon (“sing up loud with the ‘Sha La Laas’ folks”). Village Green (“from an album that bombed - but that’s a true cult thing; everyone loves it but nobody bought it!”).
And so it went on. It was a privilege to witness.
From the CD Storyteller ....
He was absolutely on top form; fit as a flea and bouncing around the place. He was clearly simply glad to be alive and on stage again. It winds me up so much when I watch something like the Brit Awards and see Duran Duran getting a fuckin’ ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. I mean … I ask you? Give Ray Davies a Knighthood and have done with it! The man is a songwriting genius. And he possesses that other key sign of a great fellow ….. someone who you’d really like to have a beer with!