Review - Ray solo, 2 May, 1997, Colden Auditorium, Queens College, Flushing, NY

Subject: improvising at Queens College
Date: May 05, 1997  2:15 PM
From: Fred Donodeo

It seems that the potential for chaos and near-disaster always seems to be 
lurking around the corner in any kinks-related activity.   Having read 
about countless "infamous" shows and witnessing in person  the memorable 
concert at Nassau Coliseum in 1981 when Dave dismantled Mick's drumkit and 
the band stormed off stage, as well as the ill-fated show at the Bayou in 
Wash, DC  in 1993 that lasted just short of one hour -- I've grown 
accustomed to "expecting the unexpected" at any Kinks' show.  But  I must 
admit that I always quietly assumed that Dave is probably the root cause of 
most of these "situations".     This feeling was only strengthened by 
attending 8-10 shows on Ray's current solo tour and finding them all to be 
carefully planned, professional, and consistent.
Ah...but once again, when it comes to anything related to the Kinks,  we 
should never assume...
On Friday, May 2 at Colden Auditorium, things didn't feel quite right from 
the start.  Colden's stage was designed, it seems, for classical 
orchestras, so the stage is very large, with little room "in the wings". It 
also has a high ceiling, preventing any use overhead lights and eliminating 
any possibility of an "intimate" feeling that has been the hallmark of this 
tour.   To give you an idea of how strange it was, Kirk, the roadie, was 
forced to sit in a chair on stage behind a bank of speakers, since there 
was little room (I suppose) alongside.

Even Ray himself looked somewhat annoyed from the beginning, wincing and 
looking frustrated with certain guitar notes that he played flawlessly two 
nights earlier in Virginia.  The acoustics, too, were pretty bad, with 
Ray's vocal and guitar sounding very bass-y (sorry, I'm not a musician) and 
with deep echoes.  I just assumed that this was how the things sounded up 
in the balcony where I sat,  since I'm usually in the first 5 rows.  As we 
will see, that was not the case.  Finally, the always-enthusiastic NYC 
crowd was its disruptive self,  calling out requests that had nothing to do 
with the show (calls from behind me repeatedly requested "heart of gold") 
and interrupting some of ray's touching soliloquey's.   Normally, I'm proud 
of the exuberance and energy of fans from my hometown, Queens, but on this 
night, I found some of the loudest  "fans" to be simply annoying and 
intrusive,  particularly the drunk woman who, during Ray's intro to 
"London",  kept shouting "Isn't that near Ireland?"   Surprisingly, Ray 
engaged her, asking if she knew where Ireland was.  Her foolish reply, 
"It's in New Jersey".  I mean, here we are with a genius of modern music, 
and our time was wasted with infantile exchanges like that.  Come on.
The other stressful moments for me was when Ray talked about his sisters 
and "a baby boy named David".  Well, compared to other shows I saw, the 
applause for Dave was noticeably loud and sustained, causing Ray to remark 
"If you keep this up, I'll walk off"   How prophetic!    Even Pete was 
having trouble.  In one song, his guitar went dead, forcing him to change 
them in mid-song!!

But, small glitches notwithstanding, Ray got through the first three or 
four songs, with loud participation (both welcomed and otherwise) from a 
well-lubricated crowd.  But then, after London and during his story about 
his father, some bizarre sound came through the speakers -- I think it was 
a snippet of the recorded music that opens the show.   Well,  Ray stopped, 
 sneered up to the control room located behind the balcony, muttered 
something, slammed his book down (with a loud thud, obviously, since the 
crowd was silent at that point), and stomped offstage.  Poor Pete, left on 
stage alone -- looking at the crowd -- the crowd looking at him -- and yet 
his expression never changed!    In my opinion, this experience was his 
formal induction into becomming an "honorary Kink".
So finally Pete walks off and there is just silence for what seemed like an 
eternity.  The fans were funny, thankfully -- calling for ray to come back 
out.  Of course, someone who simply doesn't "get it" started yelling out 
"Refund!"  and was shut up by many fans around him.
It may have been 5 or 10 minutes later, then, when ray returns, with a new 
shirt and no blazer, attempting to explain the problems with the equipment. 
 But the crowd drowned him out with random requests and he finally asked 
"Do you want me to explain, or should I just play?"   As expected, the 
majority didn't want any explanation (although I did!).  I realize now that 
many fans that night didn't even realize it was a set "show" but thought it 
was simply a "Ray Davies" unplugged that would be open to anything from the 
band's repertoire.  Didn't they read the reviews?
Ray must have sensed it too, b/c he sadly explained that the narrative and 
songs fit together well, but that he couldn't do it well without notes (I 
don't understand what the problem was, exactly) and that he would try to 
wing it -- but that, for the most part, he would just play a whole bunch of 
kinks songs, including some different ones..

Then -- after testing the mike, moving the speakers, and explaining to the 
crowd that all the checking that we were witnessing was what  "rock and 
roll is really all about"  --- he kept his word.  Without an intermission, 
and playing for two hours,  he remained a trooper, covering some of the 
vignettes featured in  "storyteller"  and attempted some short song 
introductions from memory -- he remembered the John Lennon encounter 
perfectly -- that gave the audience a taste of what the show really was 
meant to be.

But for the most part, he and Pete just played and, sensing the crowd's 
thirst for the hits -- he deviated, much like the VH1 special did. 
 Surprisingly,  he included:

 -Animal Farm (which he said he planning to do anyway)   One of my 
 -Animal (which he dedicated to the groupies in the audience)
 -Come Dancing
 -Fancy (Can you believe it?)
 -Celluloid Heroes

All in all, a fascinating night, and I can't decide whether I'm happy 
(happy that my idol, such a witty and careful artist, is willing to 
improvise and make the best of a bad situation to please his fans, and that 
the loud singing by the crowd seemed to cheer him up and save the evening) 
or sad (sad that for all of his wonderful work, people still only want to 
hear Lola and YRGM -- and what does Ray think about that?).  I guess both 
emotions apply.

Two final observations seem worthy of comment:

1 Perhaps the most strange -- and yet appropriate -- moment of this strange 
night ocurred during Lola.  As ray began the introduction to Animal by 
discussing the "valuable service" provided by groupies, one very drunk guy 
in the balcony (not me) started yelling in a slurred voice "yeah, lola, do 
lola..." -- to loud applause.  Ray  must have known he couldn't win that 
battle, so he looked up and struck an agreement with the guy: "I'll do lola 
if you strip during the song"  Well, he agreed and a raucous version of 
lola ensued with the guy ( in the front row of the balcony),  pulling off 
his shirt and whipping it above his head.  but then, during a guitar solo 
when ray looked away,  ushers escorted the guy away, so that when ray 
looked up later in the song, no one was there!!  At the end of the song, 
Ray was asking the crowd what happened to the guy.  Strange night.

2. Watching Ray struggle trying to remember the stories from memory was 
particulaly painful for me, having watched the show performed perfectly 
 two nights earlier.  I had not realized, because it flows so smoothly and 
naturally, that the show is truly a complex mosaic of interlocking stories, 
memorable imitations, touching songs, and perfectly timed jokes that 
coalesce to create an overall glorious whole that is much greater than the 
sum of its parts.  More importantly it seems so natural  that one scarcely 
notices the work that goes into creating it. (Much like kinks songs, I 
It was only watching it go amiss, with slight misses in timing and slightly 
rushed character development -- than one realizes how carefully created it 
really was !!!
For all of his self-depricating humor and the large element of 
improvisation at Kinks shows, the fact is that for most projects, and 
particularly this one,  Ray is a true perfectionist who really wants to 
give the fans the best he can produce.  Let's raise a pint of Stout to 

And for what it's worth, my niece, just seven years old, sat next to us in 
the balcony, singing along with almost every song,  and generally having a 
blast.   As she said the next day,  "Last night was awesome!!!"