It’s no secret that I’m an unapologetic Kinks fanatic, and as such, I have no qualms admitting that I’m biased in favor of the band and any of their solo ventures. It’ll also not surprise you that I can’t go to only one show when either of the Davies brothers comes to town. This past week, I was fortunate enough to attend five Dave Davies gigs scattered across the mid-Atlantic region.
Dave Davies, who began this year’s tour in Milwaukee, WI, continued in the same vein as his 2013 tours, playing a combination of Kinks classics as well as promoting his new album. Last year, he’d stepped out in support of I Will Be Me, the album that relaunched Davies’ touring career. This year, new songs on the set list came off Rippin’ Up Time, which released at the end of October.
Friday, November 21st marked the start of my week-long tour adventure in Hartford, CT, at the Infinity Music Hall and Bistro. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not as lively as one would expect for a rock show. The performance, however, was lively and Davies proved to be in good spirits, performing Kinks classics such as “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” and “Death of a Clown,” as well as “Susannah’s Still Alive” which hadn’t been on the set lists last year. Off the new album, Davies’ offered the audience “Front Room,” a retrospective piece recalling his youth in the front room of his family’s Fortis Green house in London, where he and brother Ray created the songs that would ensure their place in rock history. Another Rippin’ piece, “King of Karaoke” sees the addition of Rebecca G. Wilson to the stage in a flashy purple dress to sing backup and generally brighten up the act. The show was fairly straight forward, not straying from the established setlist.
Davies was once again joined on this tour by Jigsaw Seen members Jonathan Lea on guitar and Tom Currier on bass, keyboard, and backing vocals. New to the lineup this year was Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, who Davies said he had been “meaning to work with for a long time.”
The next night brought the band to Bethlehem, PA, and the Musikfest Café, where Davies had performed the previous May. For this one show, the band was joined by James Sclavunos (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Grinderman) while Diken played a gig with the Smithereens. While Davies jokingly pleaded that the audience “bear with” the band due to the limited rehearsal time with the guest drummer, he and the band managed to work around any snags with humor and beautiful improvisation, including a wonderfully deconstructed rendition of “This Man He Weeps Tonight” as well as “One Night with You.” Sclavunos did add a grungy, metal edge to such songs as “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” and “You Really Got Me” (part of the encore) with his heavy, threatening drumming and growling backing vocals, reminding us how versatile Kinks songs are and their lasting influence on current music styles.
After a day’s break, the tour arrived for a two-night residency at New York City’s City Winery, which has become something of a homebase venue for the 67-year-old ex-Kink. It was here that the act truly let loose; the band seemed to play harder than ever, and more importantly, showed the audience that they were having fun. Currier bounced vigorously with his bass, Diken kept a lively beat, and Lea often acknowledged the crowd’s enthusiasm with a smile as he complemented Davies’ guitarwork with his own. There was an exchange of positivity as the audience cheered boisterously and fed into the ravenous atmosphere of the room, tossing paper plates with song requests and reacting to every song with overwhelming applause. Davies showed his appreciation by playing a snippet of “Johnny Adams,” another track off the latest album. He promised to play more of the unrehearsed track the next night and did add a second verse for the final Winery show, as well as “Milk Cow Blues,” a Sleepy John Estes cover.
Davies had several strengths on this tour. His guitar playing was as strong as ever, shredding his ax like he was still the fresh-faced kid at the Kinks’ genesis. Each night, his vocals improved, smoothing out the roughest edges without foregoing the rawness that always marked a notable difference from his elder brother. A less obvious strength on Davies’ part was his penchant for brushing off any minor flubs and gaffs with true showmanship and humor, such as a moment at the second Winery show when he restarted a verse of “Strangers,” or at the Bethlehem show during a slight technical problem with a guitar. His power to laugh off such moments with pure English wit endeared him to the crowds and prevented the shows from losing momentum.
The final show of the tour occurred this past Friday (a Massachusetts gig the day before Thanksgiving had been postponed due to snowy conditions) at the Bergen PAC in Englewood, NJ. The crowd, many of whom had also been following Davies’ on the road for several shows like I had, ensured that the tour concluded on a high, supporting the band with cheers and the usual antics (such as tossing women’s underwear on stage during “Creepin’ Jean”). It was evident that Davies felt the importance of ending his tour strong and played a solid set, which included an animated “She’s Got Everything” and a teasing snippet of “Too Much On My Mind.” It was perhaps at this show that Davies gave his most melodic and touching rendition of “Strangers.” Throughout the shows, Davies dedicated the Arthur track “Young and Innocent Days” to his elder brother, and often quipped facetiously that his sibling still hadn’t shown up for a gig.
While the tour may be over for this year, a hopeful make-up date for the cancelled Massachusetts gig will hopefully signal an excuse for more US shows next year in addition to the ongoing rumors and discussions in the media over a potential Kinks reunion. It’s likely that one way or another, Davies will be onstage again before long; for any fans who have been hesitant to see Dave Davies at any of his recent tours in the past two years, I urge you to forget your uncertainty, and make sure to buy a ticket the next time he’s nearby.
Set list from Bergen PAC, Englewood, NJ (11/28/2014):
“Ripping’ Up Time”
“I’m Not Like Everybody Else”
“I Need You”
“She’s Got Everything”
“Tired of Waiting for You”
“Susannah’s Still Alive”
“See My Friends”
“Flowers in the Rain”
“Too Much on My Mind” (one line)
“Young and Innocent Days”
“King of Karaoke”
“Death of a Clown”
“Dead End Street”
“Living on a Thin Line”
“Where Have All the Good Times Gone”
“All Day and All of the Night”
“I’m Not Like Everybody Else”
“You Really Got Me”
Coming to REBEAT next month:
During the tour, I sat down with guitarist Jonathan Lea to discuss the concept behind the Jigsaw Seen’s Old Man Reverb. Stay tuned for the interview!
(Cover photo: Davies, Lea, and Currier at Infinity Music Hall, 11/21/14. All photos by Jen Cunningham.)