JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

November 12, 2011
House of Blues - Cleveland
Cleveland, OH USA
Review by David Brais
Photos by David Brais

Ray Davies

Rhythm, melody, harmony, articulation, dynamics and pitch are the six fundamentals of music theory all musicians strive to achieve, but few perfect. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Ray Davies has not only mastered the principles, he displayed a thorough knowledge of these musical attributes while performing before a sold-out crowd at the House of Blues in Cleveland, Ohio.

This particular night, the poet / lyricist wasted little time weaving a tapestry of lasting images with each song he presented. The extremely appreciative audience clung to every word he said, and note he played. Davies took the stage with his accompanist, guitarist Bill Shanley, and was welcomed with a roaring ovation by the Kinks connoisseurs. He immediately went into an acoustic version of "Stop Your Sobbing", "I Need You" and "I'm Not like Everybody Else" before greeting the audience with, "How's everybody doing? It's so nice to be back in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame city. They couldn't have chosen a better city for the Hall of Fame."

The intimate setting of the House of Blues magnified the sincerity Ray Davies would display toward the crowd and this Northern Ohio city itself. After a half century of singing rock and roll in venues around the world, his voice still sounded strong and pure. This consummate showman continually challenged, and invited each person in attendance to take a trip, live the situations, and meet the characters contained within each song he sang. While performing a fan favorite, "Waterloo Sunset," the crowd displayed their Kinks knowledge by singing the "Sha la la" part on queue. With his opening act, The 88, also doing double-duty as his backing band, Davies gave his musicians ample time to recover from their set by performing the first 10 songs as acoustic numbers alongside Shanley. When it came time to play the upbeat "20th Century Man," a full band was on stage accompanying the rock legend. It would remain that way the rest of the night.

At the half way point in the show, Davies turns the tables and took his own break. His well-rested band immediately launched into the difficult-to-play "David Watts". Their rendition of the tune was so compelling it even prompted the song's author to rejoin his 'mates' for the final minute of this crowd-pleasing number. At this point, Davies took time to tell the audience stories about the quality time he spent in Cleveland over the years. To emphasize his love for the city, the singer made it a point to say, "When I come here, I stay in nice hotels. That said, this is a place I would live, I really mean that." The well-meaning compliment had the crowd roaring as the band launched into "This is Where I Belong."

Before referring to his days with The Kinks, Davies told those in attendance that he submits himself to a $5 fine each time he mentions his former group. The self-imposed fee was already up to $25 before he started his next song "Misfits". As a fan presented the musician with a large pink teddy bear with an Ohio license plate as a necklace that read "Kinks", the singer jokingly told those in attendance he had just been issued an automatic $25 penalty. Always engaging and polite, the artist showed also his stage savvy when an inebriated man at the foot of the stage yelled request after request, nearly bringing the show to a halt. Unable to ignore the interruptions, Davies finally looked over at the insistent fan and said, "Let's hear it for Dan the Fan." The audience laughed and 'Dan the Fan' was quickly forgotten. The concert continued without incident as the band flawlessly played "This Time Tomorrow" and "Celluloid Heroes."

Throughout the night, Davies paid homage to various personal relationships throughout his life whether it was a musician, an old girlfriend or wife, or just a friend. His final song of the evening was no exception when he dedicated "You Really Got Me" to his younger brother David. He even included the little anecdote about how he had been working on The Kinks classic for years before his brother told him to share what he was doing with him. According to Ray, "Dave took a few notes of a melody and turned it into Rock and Roll history." Then in rock icon fashion, he yelled out, "Rock bands have come and rock bands have gone, but Rock & Roll will live on forever." Amen, brother!

The 88's spared no energy playing the brothers classic hit. Ray jumped about the House of Blues stage like a 21-year old. He even turned over the wooden stool he had used periodically during his acoustic numbers, and promptly turned it into kindling. After the song was over, Ray thanked everyone and walked to the edge of the stage to shake hands. Without prompting, he proclaimed, "Let's do one more!" Before the encore could begin, Davies again thanked the audience and the venue itself. He then paid tribute to his younger sibling. "You probably all know of my ups and downs with my brother Dave. We've had our moments, but let me tell you, he is a HELL OF A GUITAR PLAYER!" As the crowd roared to life, Ray knocked out the 'kinks' as the audience joined him in singing the final song, "Low Budget."

The 24-song play list went by in a quick 95 minutes. Unfortunately, when you have a song repertoire of hits like Davies has to choose from, inevitably some crowd favorites are going to be left out of a show. Unlike his performance the night before in Chicago, Davies didn't come out for a second encore to perform the timeless "Lola". That was a real shame considering all the wonderful things the singer had been saying about Cleveland all evening.

From the first note off Ray's acoustic to the last lick off his electric guitar, each person attending this House of Blues performance had been personally invited to take a journey into the world of Ray Davies. As the Master of Ceremonies, the elder statesman of rock painted a broad stroke of melodies, lyrics, musicianship, vocals, and stage presence with his music creating a wonderful aural tapestry for those in attendance. As the lights came on, one fan referred to Ray Davies as 'England's version of Willie Nelson.' It was an analogy worth pondering.

Set List:
Stop Your Sobbing
I Need You
I'm Not Like Everybody Else
Sunny Afternoon
Dedicated Follower of Fashion
Waterloo Sunset
See My Friends
A Long Way From Home
Victoria Intro
20th Century Man
The Hard Way
David Watts
This Is Where I Belong
Nothin' In The World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl
Too Much On My Mind
'Til the End of the Day
All Day and All of the Night
Full Moon
This Time Tomorrow
Celluloid Heroes
You Really Got Me
Low Budget

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