My son William took his old man to a Ray Davies concert at the Uptown Theater in Napa, California. That’s Ray Davies as in the Kinks. Any conversation regarding great British bands such as the Stones, the Beatles, the Who, the Faces, should also include the Kinks.
I saw the Kinks at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in the early 1970’s. That concert ranks in my memory as one of the best I have ever witnessed. They delivered a performance that was dynamic, tight, fun, and sometimes thought provoking without preaching. The Kinks were masters of a sarcastic, witty, rebellious, fun, confident, and somehow still humble attitude. I think of it as the rock-n-roll ‘smirk’.
The ‘smirk’ was in good form at the Uptown Theater. Davies, a master of song and story telling, skillfully pulled on nostalgic strings with Kinks’ classics such as “You Really Got Me”, “Sunday Afternoon”, “Waterloo Sunset”, “A Well Respected Man”, “All Day, and All of the Night”, “Victoria”, “Celluloid Heroes”, and the list continued. Yet Davies somehow infused each song with a fresh and contemporary feel. In addition, his more recent solo material proved that his song writing chops were still in tact. The song “My Next Door Neighbor” from his album “Other Peoples Lives” was an outstanding example.
The master showman was in complete control. He even directed the audience to join in at key points. I have witnessed more that a few annoying audience sing-a-longs. But this was different. Davies conducted the audience like his personal backing chorus. He even scolded them, with a ‘smirk’, when they got a line in a song wrong. They laughed as he taught them what he wanted. The audience took Davies direction to heart and responded by getting it right. Many in this crowd could really sing.
Ray Davies is not a young man by any stretch. Yet he rocked the house with the energy and charisma that any young band could only hope to achieve. His band that evening, guitarist Ray Shanley plus the opening band The 88, proved to be more than just a back up band. Their play seemed genuinely inspired by the spirit of the Kinks. Are my perceptions filtered and influenced by the sentimental memories of my youth? Absolutely, yes they are. But my son reaffirmed that we had indeed witnessed an extraordinary event. It’s a special day when a twenty-year-old invites his dad to tag along.
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