In the history of rock ‘n’ roll as we know it, The Kinks couldn’t have come along at a better time.
They were a loud, rebellious, and smoldering moment of clarity for an entire generation of post-WWII English adolescents who craved something edgier than skiffle and Herman’s Hermits.
The Brothers Davies’ welding together of sophisticated phrasing and blunt force trauma guitar riffs not only made them marvels of the British Invasion, but eventually put them on course to become one of the most influential bands of their era.
So, when the sibling rivalry spiraled out of control and catalyzed the band’s dissolution in 1996, fans were left to ponder what might have been had ego-driven macho posturing not gotten in the way of their collaborative brilliance. Ray went one way and Dave went another, each recording solo material while popping up on the stage every now and then to interpret Kinks classics in separate but always compelling ways.
Western New York was treated to Dave’s take on the canon last Saturday night as he led his band into The Bear’s Den for a set filled with laughs, panties, and his patented back alley distortion.
Because he suffered a stroke in 2004, nobody knew what to expect in terms of voice or on-stage energy, but he appeared to settle back into his role as one of rock’s earliest bad boys with little hesitation. He sang with disheveled emotion throughout, which was in stark contrast to how Ray approached songs such as “She’s Got Everything” and “See My Friends” in their recorded format.
While Ray indulged in the whimsical Victorian-era concepts of The Kinks with exuberant range, Dave favors a rasping wail designed to surrender every drop of emotion he has left to the song at-hand. He knows he can’t scale the high notes like his brother, but he wasn’t going to shy away from them either.
His banter between songs put him in the category of the grandfather who revels in saying inappropriate things, because he couldn’t resist toying with the female members of the audience willing to hurl their underwear in his direction. The rapport was established early on, and I found his joviality to be a great sign considering how much time he spent away from the touring circuit.
He may have annoyed some of the less initiated fans in attendance by slowing the set’s tempo around the halfway point, but you can’t blame him for wanting to preserve his voice for the latter part of the show.
In the theatrical realm, Chekhov’s gun principle states that one must remove everything that has no relevance to the story and that, if a rifle is hanging on the wall at the beginning, it must absolutely be fired prior to the narrative’s conclusion.
In Davies’s case, his crew positioned an acoustic guitar well before the room began to fill up, so we knew it was going to be played when the time was right.
“Young and Innocent Days” and “The Healing Boy” were two standouts from the serene section of the show, the former of which Dave dedicated to “my brother Raymond,” a sign that maybe a reunion isn’t completely out of the question.
As all of this was going on, I noticed a couple of lightweights nodding off in the first row.
Apparently, the softer side of Dave Davies doesn’t appeal to them at this juncture in their lives, because the same two people were among those swarming the stage once Dave kicked into “All Day and All of the Night” and “Dead End Street.”
“I’m Not Like Everybody Else” was the stunner, though, as Dave snarled his way through the verses in Lemmy-esque fashion accompanied by anyone looking to get in on the action. It was an anthem for the ages and, in retrospect, made the encore of “You Really Got Me” that followed feel conventional.
Now that this region has experienced both Ray and Dave in a two-year span, some wily promoter needs to brainstorm a plan to get them on speaking terms once again. If Harvey and Corky were still running the show, you know Harvey Weinstein would work his magic to make it happen.
After all, as Dave’s performance proved, he’s more than ready.