Aging Rock Star
Tuesday night, two weeks ago, at the City Winery, one of three sold-out shows, we arrived for the Dave Davies concert with curiosity. The place was packed with old hippies, rock-n-rollers, retro-boomers and lots of younger people who wouldn’t have been alive for The Kinks’ first hit. So were they Kinks fans? Dave Davies fans? Nostalgia bingers?
I had loved The Kinks back in the seventies and eighties, though I’d been too young to know them in the 60s. I’d been aware of the bitter rivalry between Ray and Dave, but I hadn’t kept up with their various individual projects or given them a lot of thought in recent years. That I found myself at this show was a matter of happenstance. My curiosity mingled with pessimism because Ray Davies wrote most of the songs and he’s the one you think of when you think of The Kinks. Dave was known more as the guitarist.
The pessimism felt quite justified when Dave Davies opened with I’m Not Like Everybody Else, one of The Kinks’ more turgid songs in the best of circumstances. But now, as he yelled in his hoarse, cracking voice, I’m not going to be what you want anymore! the song bordered on ridiculous. And ridiculously loud.
His voice was so rasping and weak, I wondered if he had a cold or something. He seemed to forget his lyrics. His fingers couldn’t find the right notes on his guitar.
I couldn’t decide whether to resent him because I’d paid $55+convenience-fee for a performer who did not have his shit together, or to feel sorry for him because he was in over his head. And yet there is something profoundly likeable about Dave Davies.
How could we not root for a sixty-six-year-old man still out there playing music and doing his thing? In 2004, he suffered a stroke. It’s a miracle he’s still with us.
When Dave Davies burst into Tired of Waiting for You, assisted by the voices of the drummer and the other guitarist and the audience sang along, people screamed their appreciation. Even I, pessimist, couldn’t resist. That audience love, combined with the lyrics and melody of a song that had entered my life and my body on a cellular level at an early age, bringing fraught sense memories of the past, eliminated all my resentment.
Aging, afflicted with our heartaches and physical ailments, it’s a miracle we’re all still here. As for the well-publicized enmity between Dave and Ray, Dave cried, We don’t hate each other, you know! before launching into Young and Innocent Days. Well, not that much anyway! And the audience howled their approval.
When he donned his reading glasses so he could see his lyric sheet, his voice grew more confident, and it seemed that the audience affection buoyed him and sustained him, so his playing and singing improved with each song. And he seemed so grateful for the love, it would have been mean-spirited to withhold it.
We’re all feeling a deep connection here, aren’t we? he shouted at one point, eliciting confused laughter from the audience. That’s a real question! he cried. More laughter and applause. A woman shouted, We love you, Dave! Oops, was that me? It could have been. It’s what I was thinking. Here’s my love if it will strengthen you.
The band left the stage after four encore songs, one of which was a repeat of their opening. The piped-in music started in over the sound system, a sure sign the show was over. Though the lights had not yet gone up, people were standing, settling checks, gathering things, ready to leave, when Dave Davies came back onstage, crying, But it was a request! It was a request! The band followed, dutiful and bewildered, and they played their last song, You Really Got Me.
And that really got everyone. I’m still singing it. You got me so I don’t know what I’m doing. Yeah.