Review - Ray Davies, August 23, 2000, Jane Street Theatre, New York City

Date: August 29, 2000 6:51 AM
From: Chris & Crystal Kocher

First off, let me say this - Ray has definitely *not* lost it. Sure, he did that Storyteller thing for a little too long, but he's back with some amazing new songs.

The Jane Street Theater is a tiny venue attached to the Riverside Hotel, just off the Hudson River. The theater doesn't have a bad seat in the house that we saw - except for the AA row, which was right behind the speaker stacks, but they didn't seem to be seating people there anyway. The mezzanine is only two rows, but it did seem a little steep.

The show started 45 minutes late, but Ray finally came onstage, accompanied by Pete Mathison. He greeted the audience, sat down on his stool, and opened with "To The Bone," followed by "Rock & Roll Fantasy" and "Animal" ("this is one of my favorites").

As he was joined onstage by Yo La Tengo, he said "tonight is an experimental night." (Two other musicians - Elegant Too according to the setlist Chris spied - did additional drumming and "sampling" on a few songs. Ray also played what looked like an old Moog synthesizer or a Hammond organ on other songs.)

The first new song was "Next Door Neighbors," about what goes on behind the closed doors of people in a neighborhood. It was followed by "Creatures of Little Faith," a song about how people in relationships don't trust each other.

He introduced "Animal Farm" by telling the crowd that YLT had blackmailed him into doing it. "They agreed to play with me only if we did this one." "No Return" was next.

"The Morning After" was a hard, loud rock song, with a dark chorus something like, "Get up, you wretch, and get out of here!" This was definitely one of the stand-outs, including some incredible playing by the YLT guitarist (Ira Kaplan?).

"The Deal" is based on one of the stories from "Waterloo Sunset" - it's a song about going to LA, getting a tan, cruising for babes, going to clubs, and - oh, yeah - getting a record deal.

He took from the early Storyteller shows for the long song "Americana," about how the Kinks first came to America - land of "ice cream and apple pie, guns and the Wild West." It was surprising at how well the story stood up out of the context of the Kinks' story.

"The Empty Room" is about someone who cleaned out all his mementos so that he would have to face the memories of his past. On "That's That (Standup Comic)," Ray displayed his performance side by imitating standup comics that go for the lowest common denominator, like fart jokes that everyone laughs at. He said it was a slam against the very British concept of "yobo culture."

"All Day And All of the Night": Definitely a techno-sounding mix with Elegant Too doing the sampling. It was still the same song, yet the "weird" effects and different tempo brought it up to 2000.

"My Diary": From the "Waterloo Sunset" U.K. CD. Before this one, he said that sometimes he wished that he had other people to sing his songs for him, because people tend to think the songs are about the singer.

"Celluloid Heroes"

"Village Green": Not quite the poignant, a capalla version I saw at my first Storyteller show, but still good.

"I'm Not Like Everybody Else": A rousing sing-along - "Say it like you mean it!" Pete did some nice solo stuff here, very different from Dave's (which I'm sure was intentional).

"This Strange Effect:" Ray didn't play on this one, and his voice was incredible.

"Otis Riffs": Ray must have gotten his notes mixed up - he introduced this song after "Americana" as a tribute "Otis Blue," an American album popular while he Kinks were touring there for the first time. It's another rocking number about dancing to and enjoying those songs.

"Cowboys in Vietnam": To me, the most surprising song of the night. It's about how manufacturing has moved from U.S. to Asian factories and put American workers out of jobs. A cool song about economics and trade policy. Leave it to Ray to pull that one off.

"This is Where I Belong": He claimed he hadn't played this one since the Kinks recorded it - and I can certainly believe that. I wonder if YLT made him play this song as well?

"Where Have All the Good Times Gone?"

"A Bridge of Dreams": Ray admitted he didn't like the title to this song - that sometimes he gives songs "code names" because he doesn't want to tell people what they're really about. It was a great tune about, oddly enough, Thanksgiving - some people going home to their families, some sitting home along, truckers stuck on the road by themselves. Very touching. He said the inspiration was a concert promoter who took him to Long Island for Thanksgiving one year.

"You Really Got Me": Complete with the Dave-in-the-background "Fuck off!" bit. Ray introduced this song by saying that there's a lot made of the "hate relationship" between him and Dave, but that in Storyteller, Dave is the hero of his story and that "without his sound on this song, there would have been no record."

Encore: "I Need You," which he also claimed he hadn't sung since the Kinks recorded it.

Other fun parts:
-> He joked that he thought about putting the band in "kid Gap clothes" - a reference to the YRGM TV ads. He made sure to point out that "I have absolutely nothing to do with that" - which he doesn't, having signed away the rights to those songs early on.

-> At one point he said, "This is too much fun!" - and immediately his guitar strap broke and the guitar went crashing to the floor. As his guitar tech went rushing onstage, Ray looked very pained but stood back and made a joke of it - "I've been a rock star so long, I'm not sure what to do next!"

Frankly, I don't think the audience appreciated the new songs as much as the Kinks ones - which is too bad, really. Some of the stuff seemed a little rough around the edges (Ray was reading lyrics on a few), but that was part of the experience of trying out new material. (There was absolutely no mention of a new CD, or whether they had even recorded any of the new stuff.)

Ray looked great. He spent a lot of time sitting on the stool, which at first I wondered about. (He even said that doing "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" was hard to do sitting down.) But then I realized that he's probably fighting that old back injury again.

I think the new material was incredible, showcasing his ability to do slice-of-life songs about everyday people, but still proving that he could rock with the best of them. Not bad for a 56-year-old guy.

We were fortunate enough to meet Ray after the show, where he autographed items (I still don't understand why one guy asked him to sign a *baseball*) and stood for pictures. Pete also came out earlier to chat with the fans, but YLT slipped out of the building with little notice.

When Ray first emerged from the stage door, one of the first questions someone asked was, of course, "When are the Kinks getting back together?" Ray mumbled something about it being a question of the right timing, but it was clear he wasn't happy with being asked. And I felt bad for him - here he is, having just done a great solo show with lots of good new stuff, and some fan wants to know about the Kinks? Hadn't he paid attention at all?

Chris & Crystal Kocher