Review - Ray solo, 24 October, 1997, Englewood, NJ

Date: October 28, 1997  2:30 AM
From: Chris Kocher

There's already been a few comments about Ray's Friday night show in
Englewood, but I thought I'd send in mine.  Would have done it sooner,
but it's been a busy couple of days... and in a way, I'm still stunned.

First off, comments that Ray is losing it or just plodding through the
"script" were quickly dispelled.  Ray was excited and energetic, jumping
around, throwing in different songs, and generally kicking major ass for
just over 2 hours. My guess is that it took him a few shows to get back
into the groove of things.

My fiancee Crystal and I hit the road in plenty of time - and good thing
too, since Friday night traffic had us crawling the last 30 or so miles
into New Jersey.  And then we got a little lost.  Not for the first
time, I find myself swearing I'll never go into New Jersey again.
Roadways make no sense there.

But we made it around 6:30, and managed to see a few familiar faces -
Jill (thanks again for the quarters for the parking meter), Dennis the
Apeman, Kate Hunter (and her own personal phone booth).  And we finally
got to encounter Frank Lima, who was handing out photocopied articles
and bumper stickers right at the door. (Thanks for the stuff... very

Not sure about the seating of the John Harms Theater, but it only seemed
to be 2/3 full at stage level and empty in the balcony.  Still, the
front rows were jam-packed - including the three rows of folding chairs
which were set up in front of the "regular" seating.  We saw at least
one guy who was demanding his money back because he was in row A and
naturally figured he was in the front row.  I'd be ticked off too - it
seemed a very unfair thing for the theater to do.

The show started more or less on time, with Ray coming out and belting
out an abbreviated version of "Lola." (Is he getting tired of playing
this one after 27 years? Probably.)  "Apeman" was a nice surprise.
"Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" was "dedicated to everyone who ever went to a
Kinks concert." Very cool.

Then Ray began the story about his life, along the same lines as
previous tours.  I think he surprised us by breaking into "Muswell
Hillbillies" - I loved it!

He talked a bit about his sister who died and how even funerals in the
front room turned into sing-alongs, how somehow pop songs helped people
work out their emotions. He also told how discouraged he was in art
school, but Anita soothed him and encouraged him to play his guitar for
her, saying, "It's alright" - which led into the song wonderfully. Both
seemed surprisingly candid for Ray, I thought.

New song "Dawn Was Breaking"/"Back in the Front Room" (whatever it's
called) is about how he sees a "way out" by playing music with Dave in
the front room. It was a feeling portrayed in the past, but the song
managed to solidify it.  "Julie Finkle" made a welcomed reappearance.

He also advised us (and Pete Mathison - "He's pretending not to be
listening...") about the importance of groupies, and suggested there
should be a wing of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to honor them. He
also tried to balance a glass of stout on his head, but ended up
spilling some on Pete's guitar.

Ray handled hecklers very well. To some guy early on who yelled for "Set
Me Free": "Don't worry, darling, they'll let you out of your cage
soon..."  Later he said, "I'm calling you 'darling' because in the
darkness I can't tell if you're a man or a woman..."  Loud calls for
"Village Green" got annoying after a while - as did the guy behind us
who kept naming the songs and their composition dates to his friends.
Just enjoy the show, already.

There were two encores - the first was an incredible version of "I'm Not
Like Everybody Else" (still think this should have been a single from
"To The Bone"!!) followed by "Waterloo Sunset" The whole audience was
standing, clapping and singing along. People held up stuff for Ray to
sign or keep, and he seemed to accomodate a lot of them before walking
off. After thunderous applause, the second encore was the story about
when "You Really Got Me" went to number one and his Dad told him he was
proud.  It was totally incredible!

Crystal and I hung out in the theater for a few minutes, watching people
scramble for the guitar picks that Kirk the roadie was throwing from the
stage. Finally we decided to head out.  In order to get back on the road
where we wanted to be, we had to drive through a shopping mall behind
the theater - and spotted several people hanging around the back door.
After a few moments of deliberation, I turned the car around, parked
quickly, grabbed my copy of "X-Ray," and we dashed to join the others.

As we were walking up, two people came out the door - Ray and some older
burly guy. There he was! I was stunned as I got behind the other people
asking for autographs. But Ray jumped into a waiting van, the other guy
got in, started it and flipped on the headlights. It looked like they
were going to pull out.

If they would have left, I would have been very disappointed to have
been so close but not spoken to him.  Luckily he rolled down the window
and started signing stuff. (He probably felt safer in the car - in case
something went wrong, they could just pull out and leave.) I watched the
girl in front of me spell her name for him, thinking, "Hurry up! He's
gonna leave!"

Crystal hung back - as she said later, Ray's my hero and it was my
moment (she's such a sweetie!), so when I handed Ray the book, it was
just me and him.  I was speechless - so nervous I didn't even tell him
my name for the autograph. "I really love your work," I managed to say.
"Thank you, man," Ray said quietly, and signed the book for me in his
own black marker.

I took the book from his hands and stepped back. Other people started
shaking his hand, and I had this sudden need to touch him as well. I
stuck my hand out and he touched my fingers with his. It was a very cool
moment for me - it's not often you get to meet one of your heroes like

We all thanked him as he rolled up the window - and just as they started
to pull away, Jill came running up with a small gift in her hand. Ray
rolled the window back down, took it, thanked her, and finally they
drove away. (So what was in the box, Jill?  If I can presume to ask, of
course. <grin>)

Meeting Ray was the perfect end to a perfect evening. He's still got it,
no question about it. And I think Crystal's definitely become a Kinks
konvert - she's trying to read "X-Ray" for herself now. (She promises to
post some of her own impressions later on, so be nice to her. <grin>)

So... if you have tickets to see Ray in the next few weeks, be ready for
a very cool show.  Even if you've seen it before, enjoy the "20th
Century Man" Tour while you still can.  Me, I'm already looking forward
to Pittsburgh on November 9th. <g>