With whimsy and good cheer, Dave Davies took to the stage in Montclair on Saturday night and giddily reminded the crowd where all the good times have gone.
“They’re right here!” he shouted to an adoring audience, who witnessed a memorable performance by a proverbial rock ‘n’ roll legend. Mixing his patented guitar riffs with disarmingly friendly banter, Davies spent 90-plus minutes bringing to life numerous classics and several lesser-known gems by The Kinks — the ground-breaking 1960’s British invasion band that he formed with his older brother, Ray.
The performance, which took place as part of the Outpost in the Burb series, was also another life-affirming moment for Davies, 71, who suffered a stroke more than a dozen years ago and, since then, has gradually recovered sufficiently to release several albums of his own.
His most recent, Open Road, appeared a year ago and, not surprisingly, offered a poignant look back at his life, but also asserted a determination to look ahead to new adventures. The songs are reminiscent of the introspective and melodic oeuvre that made The Kinks a favorite of generations. This gig, though, was nothing less than a raucous and thoroughly enjoyable celebration of that musical past.
With a broad smile, Davies launched energetically into a treasure from 1965, “Till the End of the Day,” with its catchy hook and promise of feeling good “from the moment I rise,” a clever opener that smartly set the tone for the evening.
Before continuing with more radio hits, however, Davies tapped the rich back catalog of Kinks tunes with several relative 60’s obscurities— “She’s Got Everything,” “I Need You,” “Creeping Jean” “Susannah’s Still Alive” and “See My Friends” — although he also tossed in “Tired of Waiting for You.” Judging by faces of what were clearly many die-hard Kinks fans sitting around me, such choices were nothing less than thrilling.
Amid the revelry, Davies paused a few times to acknowledge the vagaries of life. He dedicated “See My Friends” to the recently deceased Jim Rodford, who was an original member of Argent, played bass for The Kinks for 18 years (starting in 1978) and was more recently a part of the revived version of The Zombies.
Davies then detoured to “Path is Long,” the one track from his most recent solo record that he played during the show and a wistful look at his journey over the decades. “It’s not where we’re going, it’s not where you been or how much you have made. It’s how we have lived,” he sang. This made a lovely segue to “Strangers,” from the 1970 Lola album, an ode to uncertainty.
Of course, so many Kinks songs were written by his brother, Ray, and so Davies offered a fitting “tribute” by playing “Young and Innocent Days,” which appeared on the 1969 album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), one of the band’s best-loved albums. “Look back at the way I used to look at life. Soft, white dreams with sugar-coated outside. It was great, so great…”
It was hard not to miss some contrast between now and then, in fact, as Davies lovingly worked his way through these songs. His guitar prowess remains intact, but Davies often relied on lyric sheets that were placed on a music stand before him. And while the songs sounded much as they did on the records of old — the Davies brothers sound remarkably alike — his voice occasionally strained on some notes.
But the enthusiasm with which he played — helped along mightily by Dennis Diken of The Smithereens on drums and David Nolte on bass — propelled interactions with the crowd that continually reverberated back and forth, especially when he sang “Death of a Clown,” the best-known and best-loved Kinks song that he wrote himself.
The evening ended with virtual sing-alongs highlighted by “Dead End Street,” “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” and “All Day and All of the Night.” But before closing with “You Really Got Me” — the most widely mimicked Kinks song and which helped define the rock n roll guitar sound for generations — Davies played “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”
He made the song—which was written by his brother — his own. And it was an apt choice. There really isn’t anyone else like Dave Davies, and Saturday night made that so very clear.
The opening act was Chris Collingwood, one of two founding members of Fountains of Wayne; Collingswood sang lead and co-wrote the tunes with Adam Schlesinger. The band, which was named for a lawn ornament store in Wayne (yes, for real), was best known for the hit “Stacy’s Mom,” but never really made it big commercially and broke up several years ago.
Since then, Collingwood has a new album called Look Park, which was released in 2016 and was the focal point of his brief appearance. Playing acoustic guitar and accompanied by pianist Scott Klass, Collingwood showed traces of the power pop that made his band a critic’s favorite, but with a more mature, stripped-down sound and lyrics that were more confessional in a true folk vein.