- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ray Davies said it was an honor to play them. Actually, it was an honor to hear them.

Kinks songs, I mean.

For two-plus hours at a nearly sold-out 9:30 Club Monday night, Mr. Davies, weathered but still spry at 61, played some of the most enduring songs of the classic rock canon, including riffs-heard-round-the-world rockers such as “All Day and All of the Night” and “You Really Got Me,” plus English pop masterpieces such as “Sunny Afternoon,” “Village Green” and “Tired of Waiting for You.”

Of the former variety, Mr. Davies recounted Decca Records’ dismissive characterizations of the raw sound of brother Dave Davies’ guitar: “like a barking dog” and — as if that weren’t cringe-inducing enough — too “working-class.” (This is the same label that turned down the Beatles.)

Citing his “continued fascination with the sound of [Dave’s] guitar,” Mr. Davies sounded last night as if he missed his brother and frequent foil — personally and professionally. He dedicated a fragile version of the nostalgic “A Long Way From Home” to him. Kinks reunion, anyone?

The Kinks, apparently dormant for the time being, have made up in influence what they have lacked in record sales — a fact not lost on Mr. Davies. Before playing an acoustic suite of songs from 1968’s “The Village Green Preservation Society” (including a sublime “Animal Farm” and a spiky “Johnny Thunder”), he recalled the album as the “biggest Kinks flop.” However, if “flops” hang around long enough, Mr. Davies added proudly, “you’ll become a cult.”

Monday’s performance was no mere hit parade. Mr. Davies dug into the Kinks’ seemingly limitless catalog, kicking off with the beloved B-side “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” — a kind of lifestyle credo for the famously individualistic singer.

A depression-prone misfit, Mr. Davies has hinted often, in songs such as the pin-the-tail-on-the-taxman “Sunny Afternoon” and “20th Century Man” (“I’m a 20th-century man/but I don’t wanna die here,” he sang with growling passion) that he’s something of a traditionalist who’s uncomfortable with the modern, impersonal, bourgeois welfare state.

Grungy singalongs such as “Low Budget,” a late-period Kinks hit with which Mr. Davies had particular fun Monday, were happy antidotes to too much deep thinking, however.

Mr. Davies also has a new solo album (his first) to promote: the respectable, occasionally great “Other People’s Lives.” In a show of confidence, he played more than half the songs from “Lives.” He noted the eerie prescience of songs such as “After the Fall,” which was recorded (like the rest of the album) before he was shot in the leg and seriously wounded by a fleeing purse snatcher in New Orleans.

“It’s about retribution, guilt, suffering — does anybody have any of that?” Mr. Davies asked, a veritable quorum call of his favorite themes. At the conclusion of the first-album Kinks gem “Set Me Free,” the thrice-married Mr. Davies said, in a tone more comic than rueful, “She did after that.”

Supporting Mr. Davies was a sturdy four-piece band, notably including skillful lead guitarist Mark Jones, that was alternately twee and punk-furious, depending on the diverse needs of Mr. Davies’ songbook. The new song “The Tourist” became a longish psychedelic foray, with Mr. Davies ditching his “Low Budget” flannel shirt and re-emerging after an intermission sporting black shades.

After a show-stopping “Lola” — if he didn’t play it, there might have been demands for refunds — Mr. Davies stood at the foot of the stage, a bottle of suds in hand, and drank in the applause of a heartily appreciative crowd.

If Ray (and Dave) Davies’ music is akin to a barking dog, well, there’s no doubt he’s still best in show.

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