Recluse to Showman, With a Look Backward
In his book "X-Ray," an autobiography, told as a partly fictional, futuristic tale (to be published by the Overlook Press in September), Ray Davies of the Kinks portrays himself as an old, bitter, eccentric recluse, out of touch with th eworld and its conventions. But on Tuesday night at the Westbury Music Fair, in the last show on a short tour by the Kinks, one of the most important British bands of the 60's, Mr. Davies came on as more of a showman than a shut-in.
Though "X-Ray" is ample evidence that Mr. Davies is still a firstclass writer, he performed no new songs, perhaps because the Kinks do not have a recording contract in America. Instead, he slyly acknowledged that he was leading an oldies tour, congratulating the crowd when it sang the correct lyrics to songs, making fun of an audience member wearing earplugs and introducing tne band as the Ravens, the name it briefly used in the early 60's.
On the revolving stage of this theater in the round, the band managed to transcend nostalgia, performing a 90-minute mix of hits like "You Really Got Me" and "Lola" and lesserknown songs with enthusiasm and finesse. Mr. Davies opened the concert alone with an acoustic guitar, warming up his voice on some of his wittiest sendups of normalcy and conformity: "Autumn Almanac," "A Well-Respected Man," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and "Sunny Afternoon." Then he introduced the band, which included his younger brother and sometime sparring partner, Dave, an unsung guitar hero of the British Invasion, as he proved with a long and winding blues-rock solo during "20th Century Man."
In many of the pop ballads he wrote during the late 60's and early 70's, Mr. Davies put himself in the shoes of old codgers, drunks and wage slaves, simultaneously celebrating and denigrating the workings of the narrow mind. At 51, he is becoming as old as his characters. Can he avoid taking on their mentality as well? In "X-Ray," he becomes one of his characters; onstage, he remained an actor reprising a number of past parts. One hopes that if he returns later this year for a tentatively planned solo acoustic tour, he will perform new material, indicating whether he has heeded his own warnings.