Thursday, July 27, 2006

All Together Now

We went to see Ray Davies at the Paramount Theater on Saturday night.

The Paramount Theater was originally built in 1915. In the late 1970's, after it had fallen in to complete disrepair, a full restoration took place over a four year period. It's a stunner and a landmark--here's a picture, and that picture in no way truly shows how beautiful it is inside.

I recommended Other People's Lives a few weeks ago. It's an excellent album--thoughtful and very, very wry, and almost every song has hooks that make you want to listen to it again.

I'm listening to it right now, actually.

And it's a small album. It's not something you'd perform in an 80,000 seat stadium. It's much more personal than that, and that's why it's so good.

So we went to the Paramount and expected to see a concert supporting a small album. I was hoping it was just Davies, actually, or maybe him and one or two other musicians. That's all the album needs, really.

I should probably mention at this point that when it comes to music, I don't care what somebody used to be. Couldn't care less. I want to see what they are, not what they've been. And to me, based on the new album, Ray Davies is very interesting the way he is now.

We had very good seats, but any seats at the Paramount pale in comparison to the small balconies that are on either side of the stage. They can seat about a dozen people each, and they're hopeless exotic.

"I envy them," I said, pointing in the direction of the glamorous people. "Above the hue and cry of ordinary men."

"I like how they wave at the chattel," Gloria said, because almost everyone in the balcony acknowledges the peasants so far below their lofty plane. "I envy them, too," she said. "They always look so happy."

"Of course they're happy," I said. "How could you not be happy in a balcony? Unless you're Lincoln, of course."

Our first hint of possible trouble came when we saw the lady who was sitting in front of us. She was wearing a metal-studded black leather band around her wrist while she flipped through a personal photo album of past Kinks concerts.


Eight o'clock, the concert start time, came and went. The stage was devoid of life. Eight-ten. Eight-twenty. Eight-thirty.

This is bad form. Very bad. If you're performing in an arena, I expect you to be late. Very late. If you're performing in front of a thousand people, though, where you can hear every single person in the audience, it's much more personal, and your ass needs to be on time, or at least very close.

At eight-forty, finally, Ray Davies stepped on stage to wild applause. I looked at him, then turned to Gloria and said "Damn, he looks old," and I could tell that she was thinking the exact same thing. Sixty-one isn't that old, I guess, but it was a hard sixty-one.

He had a band. I think there were four other guys on stage with him--guitarist, bassist, drummer, and I swear somebody else was out there doing something. Plus Davies himself plays guitar.

It's at this point that I realized my dreams of a small concert were over, right at the moment when Davies launched into a Kinks song at mind-blowing, eardrum shattering volume. And when that one was done, he launched into a second.

I felt like one of those birds who flies into the glass sliding doors on the patio and falls to the ground, stunned.

I was blind and deaf and had no sense of my surroundings. And it wasn't particularly good, either--just loud. During the very first song, he was encouraging the audience to sing along. "Uh oh," I said to Gloria. "Opening number sing-along begging. That's a bad, bad sign."

After the second song, though (which featured another sing-along), he spoke briefly about his new album and played the opening song. At ear-splitting volume. Then he played four or five songs from the album--quiet, thoughtful, wry songs--at ear-splitting volume.

One of the most appealing qualities of the album is that Davies' voice is very distinct. His voice can sound powerful, then fragile, often within a few seconds of each other. There is a tremendous amount of nuance in the way he sings the songs on the new album.

In concert, though, you could barely even hear his voice. The band totally overwhelmed him, and when you could hear his voice, it didn't sound like it was possible for him to have recorded what I heard on Other People's Lives.

Nobody cared, really. Everyone had woodies for Ray Davies, and it didn't matter what he sang or how he sang it. All that mattered was that he was standing right there in front of them, and I'm totally okay with that. It's just not my thing.

We made it through an hour. During the last two songs, I was physically in pain. The noise was so bad that I ordered accoustic earplugs on Sunday, in case I have any hearing left. And I missed several songs from the new album that I really wanted to hear in concert ("Other People's Lives," in particular, is a great, great song), but I wouldn't have recognized any of them, anyway, so I guess it didn't matter.

I heard an interesting conversation as we walked through the lobby. We had seen a woman woman before the show who was clearly part of the upper management of the theater. She was talking with two other people, clearly annoyed, and I heard her say "twenty-one songs and three encores."

I'm not sure how I heard her. Maybe I can read lips and never realized it.

Maybe she wasn't going to get the show that was specified in the contract. Maybe she was upset because the show started so late. Either way, though, she had nothing to complain about--she was still able-bodied and fully functioning and had excellent posture. Meanwhile, I dragged my broken body and ruined hearing across the softly carpeted floors and into the night.

Site Meter