Review - Ray Davies, Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, California

From: Steve Smith
Date: July 18, 2006

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles
By Steve Smith
Set list below

After forty-two years of performing in Los Angeles, English rock legend Ray Davies of the Kinks gave a concert mostly for his long-time die-hard connoisseur fans Sunday at the historic Wiltern Theatre, who loved every bit of it.

He dug out a couple rarities, two stirring ballads that rank among his loveliest.

The beautiful Oklahoma USA, from the countrified Muswell Hillbillies is about his sister who loved the Westerns of John Wayne and Randolph Scott, and considered Rodgers and Hammersteins Oklahoma as her favorite, and who moved around the world to Australia.

But in her dreams she is far away,
In Oklahoma U.S.A.
With Shirley Jones and Gordon McRea,

As she buys her paper at the corner shop,
She's walkin' on the surrey with the fringe on top,
Cos in her dreams she is far away,
In Oklahoma U.S.A.,

She walks to work but she's still in a daze,
She's Rita Hayworth or Doris Day,
And Errol Flynn's gonna take her away,
To Oklahoma U.S.A.,
All life we work but work is a bore,
If life's for livin' then what's livin' for.

Ray sang about his wild haired brother Dave, AKA Dave The Rave, the Kinks lead guitarist, back-up singer and primary sparring partner in A Long Way From Home, a song he possibly hasnt performed since its release in 1970.

Performing the song was made even more special because Dave suffered a debilitating stroke in 2003 and, while hes made significant strides, his recovery still continues.

Always considered one of rock musics finest lyricists, Ray Davies addressed his brothers maturing and coming of age as a famous rock star in a few short years or Daves lack of it.

(Now) you think you're wiser because you're older and you think
That money buys everything
And you think you need no one to guide you
But you're still a long way from home.

You've come a long way, you're self-assured and dressed in
funny clothes, but you don't know me.
I hope you find what you are looking for with your car and handmade overcoats

But your wealth will never make you stronger
'cos you're still a long way from home
Yes, you're still a long way from home

Ray Davies lived in New Orleans during much of this new century. He absorbed its history, its ambience and its culture. And its music. Its where he recorded most his fine new solo CD, Other Peoples Lives over a span of about three years. Its also where he was shot in the leg during a robbery attempt (hes fine now). Numerous older songs were also given a slight New Orleans Zydeco touch, usually to acceptable effect, but alas, not on 20th Century Man, which lacked it usual punch and intensity.

The man composed so passionately and eloquently about the England of bygone eras, especially Ye Olde Victorian England; and pf the fall of British influence around the world, brings that same passion and love to the Big Easy and the people of the Good Old USA. On Other Peoples Lives, Davies saw his USA in his Chevrolet. Some of what he sees is good, some not so.

But he thinks highly enough of his new work that he performed ten of the CDs thirteen songs and whats rare is that the crowd didnt stream out for a bathroom break and another libation. The majority of the crowd got into and appreciated each number.

Davies was backed by a hard-edged four-piece outfit that seemed to enjoy Big Time psychedelia when given the opportunity to spell the still spry, still agile, still energetic, still rock and roll screaming, still hard rocking 62-year old for a brief break a time or two during the nearly two-hour set.

On the downside, the sound way up in the crows nest of this jaw-dropingly lovely former silent movie palace was overloaded with bass. This was un-good. Friends down below on the floor said the sound was perfect.

And, the fans looking for the usual mother lode of hits were a tad disappointed, but they really shouldnt have been because the rare gems and the new songs were excellent.

However, absent was Lola (1970), Dandy (1966), Well Respected Man (1965), Dedicated Follower of Fashion (1966), Waterloo Sunset from 1967 and quite a few other 60s classic standards and hits, major and minor.

In addition, as hes done for the last decade, his work from the 70s through the 90s was almost totally ignored, including the optimistic, critically acclaimed Better Things (1982) and another hit he wrote about a sister, Come Dancing, which was a major hit in 1983.

But again, Davies deserves Bonus Points for digging out his beautiful rarities.

The man has such a huge catalogue on material from which to draw that he cant dig them all out, but to ignore decades of truly fine music as hes done for so long does a disservice.

If he wants to appeal to everyone, the new fans (and he is still cultivating them) and the old guard, he might consider doing what Bob Dylan did a ways back at the Greek Theatre when he performed almost entirely different sets each night, showcasing approximately 100 songs during his stint. Davies could perform songs from every decade, videotape it and offer it as a definitive DVD set.

The man, the legend, this wonderfully fun and charismatic performer is always a must see for any true rock fan.

SET LIST (including tunes only briefly touched upon):
1. I'm Not Like Everybody Else (1966)
2. Where Have All the Good Times Gone (1965)
3. After the Fall (2006)
4. All She Wrote (2006)
5. 20th Century Man (1972)
6. Next-Door Neighbour (2006)
7. Creatures of Little Faith (2006)
8. Over My Head (2006)
9. Run Away from Time (2006)

Impromptu acapella bits of :
10. Victoria - just a small bit (1969)
11. Sleepwalker - a few lines (1977)
12. Gallon of Gas - a good portion (1979)

13. Harry Rag (in its entirety a cappella - 1967)
14. Sunny Afternoon (1966)
15. Dead End Street (1966)
16. Alcohol (1972) intro segued into
17. Things Are Gonna Change (2006)
18. Muswell Hillbillies (one line - 1972) segued into
19. Till the End of the Day (1965)
20. Oklahoma USA (1972)
22. Celluloid Heroes (1972)
22. The Tourist (2006)
23. All Day and All of the Night (1964)

1st Encore:
24. A Long Way from Home (1970)
25. The Getaway (2006)
26. Tired of Waiting for You (1965)
27. Set Me Free (1965)
28. You Really Got Me (1964)

2nd Encore:
29. Low Budget (1979)