After seeing Ray Davies the last time he played the Wiltern, I was a little apprehensive about shelling out the cash to see him again. I mean, that show was really good, but I've always gotten the feeling that Ray Davies doesn't understand that he's Ray fucking Davies. Fortunately some great tickets landed in my lap and I didn't have to make that tough decision. I mean the guy's my favorite lyricist of all time and Working Man's Cafe is superior to Other People's Lives and I was still apprehensive.
I'm so glad those tickets landed in my lap. Last Saturday's show was superior to the July 2006 show at the Wiltern. Ray started out both shows with the same two songs, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone" but on Saturday he seemed more energized and excited to be there. I'm guessing that his new guitar player had a big impact on Davies' mood. The guy was relatively young and a long-haired (yes, I'm using that as a noun) which contrasts with a lot of the slick, Biff Clean Teeth-type session guys that many older musicians tend to prefer on the road. The guy had good tone and was having fun playing the songs. The bass player was a a long-haired too.
After those first two songs, the band did "Till the End of the Day," "After the Fall," "Well Respected Man" (with a nice sing-along with the crowd - even I sang along), "Apeman" (which he painfully cut short - such a tease), "Next Door Neighbor," "Celluloid Heroes" (great LA song), "The Tourist," "Working Man's Cafe," and "20th Century Man" (so good). And then there was a 15 minute intermission. Can't complain about that - I got another beer and used the restroom.
After the intermission, Davies came back with an acoustic guitar and started in on "This Is Where I Belong" (again painfully cut short). His guitar player joined him and the two of them did a few of the solo tracks, which benefited a great deal by having stripped down arrangements. They did "In a Moment," "One More Time," "Vietnam Cowboys" (the other members of the band filtered onto the stage at some point, but they still kept the arrangements pretty simple), "Real World," and "No One Listen." They gave me a new appreciation for the recorded versions.
But of course it's great to hear those Kinks tracks. The band broke into "Sunny Afternoon" and the crowd erupted. They went even crazier for "Come Dancing" (not my favorite, but I was a little younger than most of the crowd when that one came out). Then it was some earlier tracks: "Tired of Waiting For You," "Set Me Free," and "All Day and All of the Night." The band left the stage and then came back for an encore of "Low Budget" (which he loves to play, but I can think of about 50 songs I'd rather hear - "Waterloo Sunset" at the top of the list) and "Lola." A bit of a tease for a second encore, but it never happened.
At some point earlier in the evening Davies had introduced the band and noted that he'd finally gotten it right. I had to agree. Really damn good. It made me question how much I really care about seeing him tour with Dave? I mean, I never saw them together, but how important is it? What would be amazing is if he got band together and did Village Green, Arthur, Something Else, Lola or Muswell Hillbillies in their entirety. But I'll happily take what I can get. It made me very happy last Saturday.....