Review - Ray Davies, October 27, 2001, Theater of Living Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Date: October 28, 2001 3:13 PM
From: Sean Higgins

We called it the night of the aging rockers! Instead of dragging my wife to see one more Davies brother show, she opted to go to Rod Stewart who was playing the 20,000 seat First Union Center Arena in South Philly. I took my good friend to see Raymond Douglas Davies at the 400 seat Theater of Living Arts in center city Philadelphia.

The show started promptly at 7:00 and Ray came on stage in very high energy. This show was supposed to be the first stop of the American tour, but was postponed due to the September 11th tragedy. Ray did not refer to the incident, but he apologized for the postponement and promised a good long show since it started so early in the night.

Ray came through. This was my 6th time seeing him solo and it may have been his best night. He started as usual with some Kinks songs ("I’m my own opening act tonight!"). First was Come Dancing followed by I go to sleep. Next was Village Green Preservation Society and a very rousing version of Low Budget. He dedicated that song to the bell hop at the hotel ("It was half empty and they still gave me the crappiest room!")

Then he went into the Storytelling part of the show with Victoria and 20th Century Man. While the show followed the same format as before, he did a lot more improvising, and cut some stories out. He did a lot more with his impressions of his dad and even threw some songs in that hadn’t always been in the mix: "Where have all the good times Gone?" and "The Hard Way". He played X-Ray and Julie Finkle, but not Art School Babe. I heard Australia for the fist time which was a lot of fun.

At one point during the show, he mentioned how he wanted to have his solo album out by now, but ran into problems with his record label. He said that this may very well be the last show in the present format, but did not elaborate as to what was going to be next.

After he left the stage following "You Really got Me" he came back for two great encore sets. First was the entire "Waterloo Sunset" which he dedicated to Philadelphia. He looked like he was going to leave and then said, "All right, I’ll play one more" and went into Celluoid Heroes. He left and came back and went right into Days — first acapella, and then joined in with the guitars. At the end of Days he ran and said something to Pete, and then went into "This is Where I Belong" I remember he played that at the Jane Street Theater last year in New York and it seemed like he really enjoyed re-discovering that song. "Lola" finally closed the show and he really jammed on the riffs. He even did a couple of jumps at the end to which my friend said "He looks like Townshend up there " (big Who Fan!)

Best song of the night without a doubt was "Dedicated Follower of Fashion". I think he played all the original verses and had a blast. The crowd was fantastic (as Philadelphia always is!!). My wife enjoyed her show as well, but I’ll take Lola over Maggie May antytime (the song that is!)

Date: October 31, 2001 6:40 AM
From: Chris Kocher

Ray Davies - Theatre of Living Arts - October 27, 2001:
"The last time the show will be presented in its current form"

Doubters take note: Ray's show Saturday at the TLA was, without question, the best Storyteller show I have ever seen. The performance may not have been as long, or the stories as detailed, but Ray and talented sideman Pete Mathison showed an overwhelming amount of energy and passion. They were smooth, flawless, jamming out and having a hell of a good time. And Ray's voice has never sounded better.

I admit that, when the tour dates were announced, I had my doubts too. How much could Ray still squeeze out of the Storyteller format after six years? Did I want to see it again after five times in the past five years? (I know - still a rookie for many of you.) But Crystal and I decided to go, and ask along a friend from the newspaper named Dave, who is a big Kinks fan but had never seen the Storyteller show. (He has the CD, but hadn't seen Ray perform since the Kinks' "Word of Mouth" tour.) I thought it'd be fun to get his perspective. Also, I had seen my first Storyteller show at the TLA in 1996, so it would almost be like coming full circle.

The original TLA date, September 18, was of course canceled due to the terrorist attacks. As Dave said at the time, "I probably wouldn't be in the mood for it anyway." Neither would Ray, probably. So I'm glad it was rescheduled.

We got there to find that the venue had changed in the five years since my last show there. They had extended the bar out into the theater, so people could sit at it and watch the stage. However, on Ray's request (or so the waitress told us), the bar was closed once Ray took the stage. The crowd seemed to be a nice mix of young and older people.

I was worried at the beginning of the show. Originally it was supposed to start at 8:30, but was bumped back to 7 to accommodate a second show later in the evening. (We only saw it by accident the previous Thursday on the Kinks newsgroup.) Ray's performance was sold out, but as showtime approached there were still many empty seats - more than there were people milling around in the bar.

The moment Ray stepped onstage, his first question was, "Did anyone tell you about the change of showtime?" There was a general chorus of "no" from the audience - an answer that seemed to piss Ray off: "When the time of the show's changed, it's the promoter's fault if people can't get here on time." Then he said: "That just means we'll have to do a *longer* show!" The audience, of course, loved it.

He made snide comments about the place for the rest of the show and was clearly aggravated by people continuing to be seated a half-hour into the performance. He seemed to do a few more songs (and extended version of those songs) so people wouldn't miss too much if they were late. "I didn't realize I'd have to be my own opening act," he lamented.

There were also problems with the lighting early on, which he tried to signal to one of the roadies. He finally said, into the mike, "Can we dim the lights a bit?" Later, he urged the audience to sing "so loud you blow the roof off this building - so no one ever has to play here again!" I wonder if this is Ray's last show at the TLA. (There were several people who appeared to come in around 8:30 - I hope they demanded their money back.)

Points of interest:

-> Whoever is in charge of the signage at the TLA really needs to get on the ball. One side of the marquee said the second show started at 9 p.m.; the other side said 10 p.m. Also, a sign in the lobby said that Ian Hunter (from Mott the Hoople) was playing the 27th, when the marquee said the 28th.

-> It was very nice to see fellow fan Julia Reinhart again - I hope you managed to sell those tickets before the show. And where *was* Frank Lima?

-> Ray said the bellhop at his hotel, "a little Asian guy," recognized him when they'd checked in, shouting, "Ray Davies - Low Budget! I was there!" So Ray dedicated the song to him.

-> Ray introduced the show as "from the black book of X-Ray - the last time the show will be presented in its current form." (A bit of an exaggeration, since he did it again Monday in Maine and presumably did so again in Westbury.) During the encore, Ray explained that this tour was supposed to be in support of his new solo CD, but that had been pushed back because his record label had apparently "fallen into the Pacific Ocean."

If this is true (and with Ray, that's always an issue), his new label (EMI?) may have forbidden him to tour with the Jane Street material until the album was out, so he fell back to the Storyteller format.

-> Many parts of the show seemed a lot more personal than in the past. "See My Friends" was connected to the death of Ray's sister, and it included a new sung/spoken part at the end that was a conversation between their mother and father (in heaven?). Similarly, "Australia" was tied to Arthur and Rosie's emigration to Australia, and had "dialogue" from Arthur to Rosie about how they'll be happy once they reach "that Antipodean shore."

-> A few songs had very different arrangements than normal. "X-Ray" was much slower, and "Australia" took on a definite Caribbean feel. (Someone should tell Ray that Australia's not near, like, Jamaica but even so, it was fun, and Ray looked like he was having fun playing it.)

-> He asked someone in the front row about the absence of Dennis the Apeman: "I miss the way he claps along to songs - and intimidates the audience." Anyone who has seen Dennis at a show knows exactly what Ray means

-> As with the past couple of tours, brother Dave is the hero of Ray's show. Dave takes some good-natured ribbing about the way he speaks, but when push comes to shove, Ray admits that it's Dave and his solo on "You Really Got Me" that put the Kinks on the road to success. Missing was Dave yelling "Fuck off!" in the middle of the recording of YRGM - which made the story lean away from comedy and more toward poignancy.

-> The show had three encores. I got the feeling that Ray wanted to stretch things out a bit to make the TLA management uncomfortable. The first included great renditions of "Waterloo Sunset" and "Celluloid Heroes." Then he left the stage again only to come back wearing a black shirt with a red rose stitched on each collarbone - which led to a quick snippet of "I'm a Muswell Hillbilly boy"

I thank Yo La Tengo for reminding Ray of the gem that is "This Is Where I Belong." It was during this song that I felt a definite surge of emotion. Here was a brilliant man who had just put his heart and soul into his performance with an intensity I had never seen before. This really was where I belonged - I had my arm around my wife, I was surrounded by hundreds of other fans, and we were singing along with a songwriting genius. If there's one thing I've learned in the past six weeks, it's to hang on to these moments - these slices of paradise - because they won't last forever. By the time we got to "Days" OK, I admit it - Ray made me cry. And I can't think I was the only one.

-> Dave, Crystal and I pushed through the crowd of youngsters outside waiting for the second show to get to the backstage door and hung around for Ray. Unfortunately, when he emerged, there were too many people between us and him to have him sign anything or to get a photo. But oh well ? he'd given us an unforgettable performance, and that was more than enough.

-> The set list (courtesy of Crystal) was:

Come Dancing
I Go to Sleep
Village Green Preservation Society
Low Budget
20th Century Man
That Old Black Magic
Tired of Waiting
Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
See My Friends
Autumn Almanac
I'm Not Like Everybody Else
Dedicated Follower of Fashion
Julie Finkle
It's Alright
Stop Your Sobbing
You Really Got Me
Waterloo Sunset
Celluloid Heroes
This Is Where I Belong

Dave was pretty much blown away by the show - needless to say, I have to agree with him. And he's already started reading "X-Ray."