Review - Ray solo, 9 May, 1998, La Zona Rosa, Austin, Texas
Date: May 22, 1998 10:15 PM
RAY DAVIES AT LA ZONA ROSA
I guess my greatest fear was that I would witness (in my mind, anyway) a total destruction of the image I always harbored, and promoted, of one of my artistic heroes. That was not to be. From what I could ascertain (from the front row I might add) Ray Davies is the anti-hero I always believed him to be. A self-depreciating nervous ham, humorous, honest, sentimental yet relevant. "Protecting the old ways from being abused", "I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want to be here". I learned something too. He can sing. His rendition of "See My Friends" was absolutely stunning, filled with emotion and melodic imagery. From the brother who began heavy metal there was the requisite rock'n'roll , "20th Century Man", "I'm Not Like Anybody Else" simply kicked ass - on an acoustic guitar. Yeah, after a week of reflection I can now honestly say that it was a truly extraordinary event, especially at the end of the 20th Century - "and I don't wanna be here".
I told Anna that as soon as we hit Austin we would check in to the hotel and immediately go over to La Zona Rosa to check out the venue, get psyched up, get ready, have a couple of beers, just the important stuff. She didn't see the sense in it, but this was my call. We got there about 6:00. An old converted warehouse at the far end and a couple of blocks off the "strip", 6th Street. Seemed deserted. Fine. There was another "bloke" there. He was from London but lives and had flown in from Philly to see Ray. I thought I was a fanatic. One thing I can surely say about this event is that it was a truly cult happening. Nobody just "walked up". The true believers were there. Anyway, this "cat" was like us, just hanging around the place where "it would happen". After a run-in with some self-important "ticket maid" a civilized bouncer let us in to examine the environs. We were ready. As it turned out the Londoner who was rather sedate and proper that afternoon sat next to us and was in, how do you say, the proper frame of mind to enjoy an evening with the leader of a band that was "banned" from the US for three years in the late sixties.
This is actually the second tour by Ray Davies to promote his book X-Ray as well as a spin-off of the VH-1 Storytellers series he helped to spawn. A family history, the history of a band, the Kinks. Davies is a seasoned enough performer to get the big hit out of the way early, he and his single electric guitar accompanist, opened with "Lola" with the usual sing-along "Lo-la la la la la Lola". This was the only piece that didn't fit into the "story" he was to tell. That was the story of one of rocks' most influential and prolific British invaders. But there's plenty more here. Lots of family stories, the Davies brothers had five, "yes five", older sisters, a Dad who enjoyed drinking stout, singing, and balancing a pint on the ole' noggin. Hilarious impersonations of managers and agents. Green amps, front rooms, and art school babes. For the uninitiated, it was a surprisingly candid and entertaining musical autobiography by one of the keenest social observers of our time.
It was, however, a bitter sweet experience. The concert was outstanding. Front row. Even managed, with Anna's assistance, to get the X Mans autograph. But I was hoping to listen to the concert over and over via the clandestine taping device I smuggled in. The pause button was pressed throughout the show. I guess you had to be there.