Ray Davies/The 88; November 6, 2011; Barrymore Theater
I missed Ray Davies the last time he was in town. From all reports it was a pretty amazing show and I kicked myself afterward. I mean, how many chances does one get to see the Kinks’ legendary frontman in a theater as intimate as the Barrymore? I wasn’t going to make the same mistake when he came through town this time. I balked a little at the $40 ticket price, but again, I didn’t want to waste another chance. Luckily, fate was smiling on me and as I walked toward the door after parking my bike a friendly stranger asked if I needed a ticket. A friend had bailed on him and he sold it to me for half price.
Openers the 88 were an energetic band from California who played a set of their own music before backing Davies for half of his set. I can see why he liked them, they were engaging and charming, plus they reminded me a little of Oasis. At least one audience member was not as taken with them, after only a few songs he impatiently yelled “Ray!” Lead singer Keith Slettedahl looked slightly crestfallen and explained they were excited to see Ray too. The rest of the audience clapped even harder after the next song as if to make up for the idiot in our midst. That didn’t deter him and he yelled again. “Shut up,” came a shout from the other side of the theater. “I hate to tell you this, but we’re Ray’s band too,” Slettedahl confessed, and after the next song yelled “Ray” himself in the brief silence that followed the applause. With the money I saved on a ticket I bought their most recent CD after the show. Not as good as the live show, but still a good purchase.
Davies looks good. Despite the rock and roll lifestyle, the years have been very kind to him, he seems healthy and his voice is great. Which is why I was disappointed that he kept encouraging people to sing along. I expect that on classic rock mainstays like “Lola” (which he didn’t play) and “You Really Got Me” (which he did), but on lesser hits like “Waterloo Sunset” I would have preferred to only hear him. So it isn’t surprising that my favorite songs were the obscure ones, like “A Long Way From Home” that Lucinda Williams selected to play with Davies for the See My Friends record, and songs from his most recent record. The irony there being that usually the last thing you want to hear from someone who has been around as long as Davies is songs from their “new” record.
As promised, the 88 did join him for half his set, filling in for the absent Kinks quite nicely. They all looked unabashedly happy to be on stage with the legend. He was also accompanied for the entire night by the terrific Bill Shanley who was a remarkable guitar player. The songs the duo played together were beautiful, so it was even more annoying when the sing-alongs happened during those songs. I was surprised at the end of the night that I hadn’t known more, but as it turned out it was probably lucky.
Ray Davies with Bill Shanley and the 88