sexta-feira, junho 02, 2006

Ray Davies Has Lots Of Music Left To Sing (by Anders Smith Lindall for The Chicago Sun-Times)

A funny thing happened to Ray Davies on the way to a quiet retirement: The iconic Kinks frontman got all fired up to rock again.

Maybe it was his move in 2000 to New Orleans, where he soaked up the American culture and music that for decades had inspired him. Maybe it was the gunshot he received from a purse-snatcher there two years ago. Cold calls from dark angels can have that jarring-loose effect.

Or maybe his years of touring as the "Storyteller" -- a sort of kindly uncle persona who perched on a stool, told old stories and strummed out stripped-down versions of his best-loved songs -- had finally bored the 61-year-old Davies silly.

Whatever the cause, the effect is clear: Ray Davies is re-energized. He has a new disc in stores. Called "Other People's Lives," it's billed as his first "official" solo album (a technical distinction that discounts past concert and soundtrack recordings). And he's touring the States with a full band for the first time since the Kinks left the circuit more than a decade ago.

That tour stopped Saturday and Sunday at the Vic Theatre, and judging by the first show, Davies has no shortage of stamina. He played two sets and two encores, both acoustic and electric, nearly 2-1/2 hours and some 30 songs in all.

Not many performers have that much material worth hearing, but a legitimate legend like Davies is an exception. More than just a prolific and long-lived songwriter, he's the author of several truly indelible classics; you could argue that the bracing riffs of the early Kinks singles paved the way for punk, while later albums became founding texts for a range of rock-based sub-genres from ork-pop to alt-country.

Saturday's sprawling set let Davies play a bit of everything, most of it backed by a full band (including lead guitar, keyboards, bass and drums) but some in solo or duo "Storyteller" mode.

It was a generous performance if not a flawless one. Competent but unspectacular, the backing players showed an unwelcome propensity for stretching even the spitfire likes of "Til the End of the Day" and "You Really Got Me" into extended jammy vamps. Quieter songs such as "Village Green" and "Oklahoma U.S.A." revealed time's toll on the nuance and flexibility of Davies' voice -- though it has also given him a newly bluesy growl. And not unaccountably, much of the capacity crowd treated the wordy, mostly mid-tempo material from "Other People's Lives" as a series of chances to visit the bar.

But Davies was determined to give the throng its money's worth, and he played the showman to the hilt, slapping hands, dancing and leading lusty sing-alongs. That newfound energy alone was inspiring; 43 years after his band burst out of North London and onto the pop charts, the old master isn't done yet.

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