Article by: Julian Weisser
At the age of 67 when some decide to relocate to a tropical environment and be content with non-alcoholic Tom Collins mixers, Ray Davies showed Boston that playing rock and roll music keeps you young, fresh, and continually relevant. Davies led the audience on a whirlwind tour of the Kinks catalog while performing the material in three wildly diverse configurations; acoustic, with his band, and with the Dessoff Choir from New York City. The show took place at the Wilbur Theater and was a rescheduled date from when Davies had to cancel his tour last year due to health concerns over the rigorous travelling schedule. He made his fans wait almost a full year but the payoff was spectacular.
Ray Davies began the night performing stripped-down acoustic renditions joined only by the lead guitarist in his touring band. They opened the set with “I Need You” before Ray sang his brother Dave’s vocals on “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” It was one of many references that Ray peppered throughout the evening about his younger brother and lead guitarist for The Kinks with whom he always had a tumultuous relationship. After finishing the song to applause from the enthusiastic crowd Davies explained that he had not planned on playing the next piece but changed his mind right before taking the stage. It was “Sunny Afternoon,” the A-side to the previous song, and as soon as the descending guitar line allowed the audience to identify the tune the excitement became palpable.
Perhaps nothing Ray Davies played in Boston was more relevant than the song “Apeman” off of The Kink’s Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. The song deals with his feelings of disgust for high society and the modern world and how he would rather “sail away to a distant shore and make like an apeman.” The theme of returning to nature and purity has been consistent in Ray’s songwriting and is a focal point of the cult classic Village Green Preservation Society. When “Apeman” was first released in 1970 the Kinks were faced with controversy over a line that sounded very much like the “f-word” but they insisted was not. 41 years later, Davies left no room for misinterpretation as he sang out, “the air pollution is a-f*ckin’ up my eyes!”
The band soon joined Ray Davies and the lead guitarist on the stage and tore into a full electric set featuring a tremendous rendition of “Shangri-La” as well as a handful of other classic tunes before they all cleared the stage for a brief intermission while the choir assembled itself on the risers behind the band equipment. What I expected to be the weakest part of the show turned out to be the best; the Dessoff choir did a tremendous job of filling in the sonic landscape to the classic Kinks songs and blended perfectly with the rock band that roared in front of them. The arrangements proved particularly fitting when the group performed a suite of songs from Village Green Preservation Society. Those, and a performance of “Waterloo Sunset” with the choir creating a wall of sound behind the band were the highlights of a career-spanning evening. As Ray Davies jumped all over the stage singing, “you really got me!” at the top of his lungs I realized he was right and just how lucky we were to have him.