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Sing along with Ray

Ray Davies
The Riviera Theatre
Chicago, IL
March 13, 2010
Ray Davies Ray Davies

Story by Tony Bonyata
File photos by Andy Argyrakis

It's not always easy for elderly rock icons to stay relevant these days, especially those in their mid to late 60s that originally helped usher in the British Invasion movement nearly half a century ago. And while The Kinks' former frontman Ray Davies' performance at The Riviera last night may have, on paper, looked like just another attempt from an aging rocker to score some quick cash with a show steeped in nostalgia, it was anything but.

Sure the 65-year old musician pulled out all the stops by running through a wealth of Kinks classics that were sure to please this aging crowd of baby boomers, as well as also performing some of his more recent solo material. But instead of sounding like a tired trip down memory lane, the slender and fit singer stripped these beloved songs down to their barest element - with just Ray on guitar and vocals, and Irish musician Bill Shanley on guitar and harmonies. The sparse and raw arrangements not only showcased how well these songs still stand up in the face of time, but also managed to breathe new life into Kinks faves such as "Victoria," "A Well Respected Man," "Autumn Almanac," "Apeman," "Tired of Waiting for You" and "I'm Not Everybody Else." While the thought of just two guitars and vocals might seem like a rather sedate affair, Davies and Shanley tore into tunes such as "You Really Got Me," "I Need You" and "All Day and All of the Night" and injected them with a shot of adrenaline and youthful exuberance.

But, perhaps, what gave the performance the intimate glow of being in an English pub hoisting pints of ale and singing aloud with a room full of friends, was how Ray interacted with his audience - inviting the crowd to sing along through most of the songs (which they/we eagerly did with unreserved abandon). In between songs he also fleshed out the evening with interesting yarns related to the numbers, The Kinks' history, his tumultuous relationship with brother and fellow Kink, Dave Davies (confessing that The Kinks' "Two Sisters" was actually inspired by his relationship with Dave), and, rather good-naturedly, reminiscing about getting shot in New Orleans five years ago by a mugger ("The Tourist" from his 2006 solo album Other People's Lives).

Giving further dynamic to an already delightful performance, Davies brought out the opening act The 88 - a young Los Angeles band, whose opening set of melodic, whip-smart power pop was a true treat - onstage with him and Shanley to perform tight versions of The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," "Dead End Street," the insanely catchy "David Watts," "Low Budget" and "Lola," which brought the show to a rocking, high-energy close. While the show had it all, with Davies and Co. serving up round after round to their thirsty patrons, the omission of the obligatory encore still left many hankering for that elusive last-call.

Related articles:

Ray Davies (SxSW Festival) - Festival review - Austin, TX - March 2006

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