Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Really Good To See Them Rockin' Out And Having Fun

The first half of Ray Davies' performance last Thursday at NYC's Town Hall was charming, if a bit familiar. Opening with an acoustic guitar and just his lead guitarist accompanying him, Davies ran through a pat set of Kinks favorites that included "I Need You," "Ape Man," "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "Sunny Afternoon," and "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion," a run of songs that has not changed much from his last few tours. Ray was in fine voice, good spirits, and though looking more and more like Jack Warden every day, still had more energy than people I know half his age. After a few more acoustic numbers, including a couple off of his most recent solo record 'Working Man's Cafe," the band took the stage, with 70's Kinks' member Ian Gibbons on keys, to rock but ultimately rush through a few more gems. I was excited about the choir too, but we were all already there. Play the songs like you mean it.

It was after the brief intermission when this show was lifted from average to special. Taking the stage while the house lights were still on, the Dessoff Chamber Choir Of NYC, filed into their chairs, and minutes later, Ray & the band performed selections from "The Kinks Choral Collection," the recently released album of Kinks' classics, reworked to include this wall of sound. Every song was a triumph. Not in a "big marching band, cheer on the team way," which is what I had originally expected to feel once I heard about this record. But more like a "sit on the edge of your seat wondering how this will come off, then being fulfilled to the point of goose bumps" kind of way.

There's a subtle but important line that shouldn't be crossed here. It's the same uncrossed line that makes a New Orleans brass band funkier than a mosquito's tweeter and NOT some halftime extravaganza at the Ohio State/Michigan game. This project could have been very wrong. Instead, it was very right. It was all just wonderful.

Take a look.

(my pictures, but not my video)

Then on Friday, just a few restaurants and Asian caricaturist tables away at Times Square's Nokia Theatre, another rock legend, Roger Daltrey took the stage with Simon Townshend, Phil Entwistle and Warren Moon (ok, not rea...nevermind) and put on a should-have-been-great solo show. Through no fault of the excellent band or the killer set list which included some rarely performed Who tracks such as "Pictures Of Lily," "Tattoo," "Naked Eye," and one of my favorite Pete Townshend songs "Blue Red & Grey," this show suffered a bit more than a bit, thanks to Daltrey's misguided storytelling.

After listening to some performances from the early part of the tour, I had been dreading this evening, company excluded. Daltrey's voice was going from bad to worse, sounding about as musical as Jack Webb after a pack of Luckies. Thankfully, Daltrey kicked his bout with "the grip," and sounded better than ok. This wasn't the problem. The problem was that for every song, there was a 3 minute story about the song; a gimmick that might have worked in a sit down setting, with some prior notice. But standing nuts to butts with maniacal Who fans in a sweltering theatre was not the time to wax nostalgic about your early days with "The Ox." One friend commented, "It's not a Who show. It's a Daltrey show. He can do what he wants. He's not a smart guy, but he's sincere." All true, but it still doesn't change my feeling that, what could have been a very fine evening, suffered from awful pacing.

There were more than enough highlights though, including kick-ass versions of "I Can See For Miles," "Young Man Blues," and "The Real Me." Plus, my favorite moment of the night, Simon Townshend's flawless take on "Going Mobile."

Good weekend of music, despite some minor complaints.

Here's Ray On Letterman.

Eerily similar review below, which posted 30 minutes after mine, by the way.


Anonymous said...

Jack Warden, or James Garner?

LOVE the letterman clip!


Anonymous said...

Sal, i still say you should be writing reviews for magazines with these 2 classics on your blog today.

Zippy Pedroia

Sal Nunziato said...

Well Zippy, maybe I should stop turning down all those amazing paid offers then.

Sal Nunziato said...

And Zippy...thank you so much. I do appreciate the comments. It's what keeps me writing.

Anonymous said...

I also was at the Ray Davies show at Town Hall and your review is spot on. Much of the first half of the show while a lot of fun, did feel rushed and almost pandering, but Ray has been performing like this since at least 1971. Bored one minute and the best performer in the world the next minute.

The second half of the show with the chorus was such a new format for Ray it forced him to be on top of his game and it showed. An interesting choice of songs and a sincerity of emotion won the day. It was as special an evening I've spent with Ray Davies since the mid 1970's, maybe earlier.

Somehow he pulled off this ridiculous concept and made it wonderfully.

The one disappointment of the evening was when he walked out for the encore holding an open bottle of beer and for the first time ever he didn't spray the audience with it. Man, he's getting mellow in his old age.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever think of submitting any work to the New York Times, Rolling Stone or Newsweek?

Zippy Pedroia