Kinks, Saints and Statues

Ray Davies
The Vogue Theatre
Vancouver, B.C.
Tuesday, May 19, 1998

Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Michael LaRivière

I was five rows from the back of the Vogue Theatre, sitting beside a dour middle-aged sod who looked as if he should've been wearing a t-shirt that said "I'd rather be cremating." A real funereal kind of bloke who never smiled, never sang along, never for one bloody moment looked as if he was feeling that sense of rock history that we all felt at this show. Throughout the theatre there were yobs with Kool-Aid dyed hair, forty-something yuppie ponytails, classic rock parents, kitten cute hippie girlies -- even the guy who runs the Granville Book Company and is a dead ringer for Mark Volman (of the Turtles and Flo and Eddie) was there. They were all getting down with their bad selves, all nostalgic-like. And me, I had to sit beside the one person in the entire place that wasn't digging it. He never cracked a smile. Believe me, that wasn't an easy task. Ray Davies is an eloquent speaker, an adept teller of tales -- and a very funny man.

Davies began the show by testing us, seeing if we were game to sit by the campfire and sing the songs of yore. Yes, that's right, he challenged us with that timeless song of transvestite love, "Lola." "Dead End Street" followed with Davies -- oh heck, let's be personable and call him Ray -- Ray introducing the only other performer, guitarist Pete Mathison, with a joking "e's preety good ain't he? And I only have to pay him in drugs." Mathison responded by playing some gorgeous ringing guitar lines in "Storyteller."

Ray spoke of the new generation -- not, mind you, the next generation, because "I don't know about you but I'm fed up with hearing about that one". "Victoria" was played, then "20th Century Man." And then was the time for the man to tell his story.

He talked of London, Soho, and the red light district with tones of reverence. It was a place of wide-eyed awe, a candy store of color, decadence and mystery. He told us of how his mother forbade his sister playing the old standard "That Old Black Magic" because she was afraid its sexy lyrics might influence her. To justify this fact Ray broke into a sleazy rendition of the tune complete with bumping and grinding. He introduced the arrival of his brother Dave into the tale saying, "He's only a minor character in this piece." Onstage arguments and fistfights between the two during Kinks concerts are the stuff of legend, and I don't know how the two get along these days. ["Tired of Waiting"]

"Dave had a bendy thing." This was a thing of fascination for Ray, describing Dave's guitar whammy. The inevitable living room jams soon followed. "The police used to come by to tell us to turn the noise down," Ray related. "Dad would answer the door and say 'Right, officer, they'll stop,' Then after they left he would say 'Right lads you just keep going all night.'" The coveted little green amp made its appearance right about then. ["Set Me Free"] Ray told us how Dave used to stick knitting needles in it to give it that overdriven distorted sound. A pioneering moment. ["Autumn Almanac"]

Then everything became serious and poignant as he told of his childhood back ailments, and how he would never be a footballer. He thought himself a cripple, and walked around trying to accept this fact. His hero was a hunchback who everyone called "The Freak." The song "X-Ray" was perfectly placed, here, driving home the fact that you can take a picture of one's body but you can't x-ray what is in the heart or the soul. This song was framed by simply lovely Gilmour-esque guitar by Mathison. After this rather weighty piece, what better time for "Stop Your Sobbing"?

Here we entered Ray's art school period where, he admitted, "I used to be a crumpet man." He used to pine after this one girl who he called "the prick teaser of my youth." He then played the song that he wrote about her, "Art School Babe." Then came a great rendition of one of my fave Kinks tunes, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" with a wonderful wah-wah solo. He told us how they invited drummer Mick Avery to an audition which saw Ray, Dave, and the bass player all glammed up. "He said that he thought we were three poofs on the make." ["Well Respected Man," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"]

Now it was time for the birth of the Kinks, and the hilarious story of the three managers: upper crust Robert and Granville who decided (Ray affects Victorian ruffled accent) "we think we would like to handle a pop group" and Larry, sneaky, shifty Larry who always called Ray "cock" ("Hello cock. How are you cock? Doing alright cock? How's yer cock, cock?") The accent Ray affected when describing Larry sounded like vintage Marty Feldman. Then came the single "Do You Still Want Me?" ("Nobody did"), and the groupies who Ray believes should have their own corner in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He related how "You Really Got Me" was written in the front room of the family house where everything happened, and how when recording it they were told to play a clean version, no distortion. They tried it but after the studio heads left Dave snuck in the infamous little green amp. He told of how when it was time for the solo he looked at Dave to give him encouragement only to receive a sneer and a resounding "FUCK OFF" and of how when they played it live "Dave would slide on his knees and throw his groin into the audience... it was still attached to his body, of course."

The rest is history. ["Waterloo Sunset"]

For the encores he played another one of my most beloved Kinks songs, "Celluloid Heroes" (edited version), and "Come Dancing," which I'm almost sure was dedicated to his sister who died at an early age. He talked lovingly about her throughout the show and I think that her passing still affects him greatly.

...and the friggin' statue beside me didn't smile once.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on July 29, 1998

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