Ballroom Dancing

SXSW panels

RAY DAVIES

Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 17

"You can get away from tax people, you can get away from ex-wives, but the back catalog is relentless," mused Ray Davies at Friday's words-and-music acoustic performance. As if to prove the point, Davies opened with the first few bars of "Waterloo Sunset" and then stopped, explaining, "That was the radio version." It was the only thing he played from his back catalog. Instead, Davies focused on the arduous seven-year journey of his new solo album, Other People's Lives (V2), with a mix of songs, banter, and video journaling. Like Davies' work with the Kinks in their amazingly fertile mid-Sixties-to-early-Seventies phase, Lives chronicles "so many bitter characters saying, 'I want to be heard.'" His "Next-Door Neighbour" describes the "tragic lives behind those safe doorways," with characters named "Mr. Jones" and "Mr. Brown." One could assume such gray-hued gents would be overwhelmingly English in pedigree, the video depicting Davies coming to America as a means of getting beyond this Englishness to a degree. He encounters a fat man playing with his nipples on the streets of New York and says, "How can anybody not write songs with guys like that around?" Then came footage of Davies' bittersweet post-9/11 solo tour of America and a New Orleans residency that culminated with his being shot in a 2004 mugging gone awry. While the dark witticisms of songs like "The Tourist" and "After the Fall" were written and recorded before both events, Davies conceded that the lyrics took on new meaning afterward. All in all, Davies only played six or seven songs between video footage, which may become a TV program one day. A little less video and a little more Ray would've been nice, but an audience with a songwriter like him goes a long way.

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