Oct. 18, 2001
By Erik Pedersen Warfield Theatre, San Francisco
Tuesday, Oct. 16
It doesn't bode well for the future of the Kinks when Ray Davies opens his solo act with "This Is Where I Belong." But belong there he does -- in the spotlight, center of attention, entertaining like the "closet vaudevillian" he accuses his father of being.
On his latest U.S. tour as "The Storyteller," the jocular, jovial Rock and Roll Hall of Famer brought his two-man show to this old Market Street theater for two hours of personal and rock history. An emotional pogo stick -- bounding from roaring laughs to somber introspection and reflection -- this half-spoken, half-sung show is an absolute treasure, one that needs to filmed and kept as more than a memory.
On a stage adorned with only a few guitars, amps and microphones, grade-A ham Davies and sidekick Pete Mathison -- seated all night, playing flawlessly and not uttering a word -- relayed the story of the Kinks and the Davies brothers from boyhood through their first success with "You Really Got Me." Sporting his usual uniform -- black pants and jacket over bright white sneakers -- Davies traipsed through songs and stories as enjoyable today as when first recorded or recounted.
"It's quite appropriate that they book me in a cathedral," he said of the fabulously ornate Warfield, with its beautiful sound, "because tonight I'm going to read from the black book." That book is "X-Ray," Davies' 1995 "unauthorized autobiography" that he goes through bookmark by bookmark, spinning tales of his father, six older sisters and, of course, that mischievous younger brother Dave. During the reading/recital, our host recalled his happy life as the only boy in a family of girls -- until "that dark day."
"His name was David," Big Brother says. "But he's only a minor character in this piece."
As if witnessing the pen and voice behind all those Kinks klassics weren't enough, "Storyteller" features the biting Ray Davies wit and broad humor punctuated with flawless comic timing that make the show such fun. "I come from far across the water," he deadpanned. "Hawaii." When male voices dominated one of his many exhorted sing-alongs, he said, "You sound like a group of rugby players (pause) in the shower (pause) after a game (pause) that they lost." The women then joined in en masse.
The stories are sandwiched between mostly shortened versions of such Kinks staples as "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "See My Friends," "Autumn Almanac," "Stop Your Sobbing" and more than a dozen others. But a few songs were dropped from past "Storyteller" shows that weren't really missed. Gone were the uninvolving "Art School Babe" and groupie celebration "The Ballad of Julie Finkel." Both are wise instances of self-editing, but the absence of "Dead End Street" and "Days" was lamentable.
He also altered the script a bit, offering a different closing story about the recording of Dave Davies' storied solo on "You Really Got Me" and omitting the tale of cops breaking up their early jam sessions in the front room at home.
So it appears that "Storyteller" is an evolving piece, which is fine, but ending the story of the Kinks in 1964 is an awful tease. The years that followed -- from being banned from playing in the States to their commercial and personal struggles in the '70s to their suddenly arena-worthy days in the early '80s -- would make for a terrific sequel. Also, Davies mentioned that his solo album is going "very well" and should be out next year, but he didn't play anything from it.
He did encore with "Waterloo Sunset" -- his crowning melody -- and "Lola," of which Davies said, "I had my doubts about this one, but I've really grown to like it."
While the kultists pine for one more tour by one of rock's greatest and most underrated bands, if "Storyteller" is close as we get, we'll take it -- with a chuckle. Make that a guffaw.