Saturday, February 23rd, 2008
A Well-Respected Man
Photo by Frank Yang
I’ve been to a number of in-stores at HMV on Yonge St over the years, and as the store has undergone renovations and rearrangements, almost every time the stage has been in a different place and sadly, its diminishing place of prominence in the store is probably directly proportional to their emphasis on music. Case in point – last night’s in-store performance from the legendary Ray Davies, most famously of The Kinks. Though rather poorly publicized, word still got out enough that the upstairs was fairly packed by a half hour before start time, people jammed into the narrow aisles between CD racks around the makeshift performance area at the top of the stairs. There was no stage whatsoever and with the low-hanging signs from the ceiling and high-standing ads on the tops of the racks, sightlines were dismal. It was enough to make one think of the wonderful in-store space in the basement at Sonic Boom and weep, just a little.
But enough dwelling on the negatives. I got there early enough to get a reasonable view, particularly after they raised the microphones from seated to standing height and when Davies appeared, coming up the stairs to grand applause, it became more about the hearing than the seeing and that, at least, HMV got right. Davies was broadcast loud and clear throughout the store as he rolled out songs from his new solo record Working Man’s Cafe. Now I’ll be the first to admit that my Kinks education isn’t nearly what it should be – I know the singles and have a few albums but have never really immersed myself in Kinks-ology. That said, Davies’ new stuff sounded pretty good – he’s still got a sharp eye for societal commentary – this time pointed at America – even if his pen is a little more plainspoken and direct, less razor witted, than it used to be and his gift for melody is definitely still intact and voice strong. In short, he’s still got it and the very brief performance – three new songs and one Kinks tune (no, not “Waterloo Sunset”, not “Victoria”, not even “Come Dancing”. Yeah, THAT one. Of course) – was a real treat from a living legend. And if you couldn’t attend or couldn’t see, he promised a North American tour coming up soon.
I Am Fuel, You Are Friends has got the audio of Wilco’s fifth and final night at the Riviera in Chicago this week available to share. The quality is pretty good, though I don’t think it’s the feed from the webcast because if it was, there’d be skips and stops all the way throughout. That was my experience, at least.
Though Gary Louris just released his first solo record Vagabonds (for which he’ll be in town at the Mod Club on March 30), Billboard reports he has another finished record in the hopper, this one a collaboration with his former bandmate in The Jayhawks, Mark Olson. Look for Ready For The Flood later this Summer or in the Fall.
Drowned In Sound interviews The Gutter Twins. Saturnalia is out March 4 and while I hope to get a proper review together soon, I’ll just say that if you came of age in the ’90s and thought that Screaming Trees jamming with The Afghan Whigs would be the best thing ever… you will like this record. They’re at the Mod Club March 14.