What was to be the opening city on Ray Davies' 2001 Fall U.S. Tour was now the third to last concert. Davies appeared at the intimate Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, October 27; welcomed by a very receptive audience. Pete Mathison played lead and rhythm guitar support to Ray's vocal vignettes.
Ray trotted out on stage carrying his trusty suitcase, protecting the little black book of X-Ray. He immediately launched into The Kinks' 1983 hit single "Come Dancing". Some other surprises of the evening included "Low Budget", "The Hard Way", and the obscure "I Go To Sleep". Ray even dusted off "Where Have All The Good Times Gone".
"I'll start with page one", and with those words, Ray commenced the Storyteller experience. Having seen the show for the third time now, Davies has a script he keeps in his head. However, he did slip in, "I don't come from Cherry Hill", as a suburban reference to the NJ metro area when prefacing "London Song". "I come from the North of London, the village of Muswell Hill", which is the center of Ray's childhood universe.
The front room of Ray's childhood home becomes a theatrical device which his tales revolve around, relating the interaction of everyday life with his six older sisters who are crucial to his story. His sisters would play their favorite hit records of their era on the family Radiogram in the front room.
One particular record worried his mom and was banned from the house. When one of his sisters had her boyfriend over on the couch, the Davies brothers would sneak this 45 onto the Radiogram. Ray remarked, "The whole house would throb to these sexy, subversive lyrics". After performing a sultry version of "That Old Black Magic" with a roving hand and outbursts of emotion, Ray concluded, "I think my mother was right to ban that record".
Big Bill Broonzy was an R&B artist Ray aspired to be. Tinkering around on the family upright piano in the front room, he composed "You Really Got Me". When he and Dave had finished performing the song together for the very first time, his family came in from the kitchen and clapped in approval. Ray recalls. "It was sort of fuzzy and unruly. It didn't sound like anyone else - it sounded like The Kinks!" Ray stated. "The closest I felt to religion was rehearsing with Dave in the front room".
Davies performed an extended set of encores, five in all. "Celluloid Heroes" and "Days" were two major bonuses for the TLA audience. During "Lola", Ray really rocked out on the number, doing leaps and movements a la Pete Townshend. Philadelphia always seems to bring out the best in Ray. With canned music playing, Davies collected his little black book, the suitcase, and flowers given to him by a female fan, making a theatrical "exit" as he departed the stage.
Davies' Philly set ran to 26 songs, much longer than the Virginia concert a month ago. The original concert date of September 18 at 8:45 pm had been rescheduled. He polled the audience after the first song, asking how many knew about the 7:00 PM curtain call. Many called out unaware of the early show time because of another performer coming on stage later. In all likelihood, Davies may have played longer to annoy the promoter for not properly notifying patrons of the corrected showtime.
After I called the TLA box office and was informed of the early start time, I was still able to drive to Philadelphia in under two hours, thankfully find a parking spot close to the venue, and blessed with snatching up a ticket for $20 on the sidewalk. It was great to see Ray again on this tour. I had seen him once before at the TLA in 1996. Davies personifies the grace, wit, charm, and humor of an entertaining raconteur.
Philadelphia setlist: Come Dancing * I Go To Sleep * The Village Green Preservation Society * Low Budget * Victoria * 20th Century Man * London Song * That Old Black Magic * Tired Of Waiting For You * Where Have All The Good Times Gone * See My Friends * Australia * Autumn Almanac * X-ray * I'm Not Like Everybody Else * The Hard Way * Dedicated Follower Of Fashion * The Ballad Of Julie Finkle * It's Alright * Stop Your Sobbing * You Really Got Me * 1st Encore: Waterloo Sunset * Celluloid Heroes * This Is Where I Belong * 2nd Encore: Days * Lola
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This Muswell Hill Raconteur would rather be in Philadelphia
by Timothy Tilghman