20th Century Man: An Evening With Ray Davies | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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20th Century Man: An Evening With Ray Davies

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Rock and roller Ray Davies's almost-solo show is part concert and part monologue--and at its best when it fuses the two forms into fluid music theater. The generously long two-act evening focuses on the checkered career of Davies's band, the Kinks: humble beginnings (jamming on an eight-watt amp), paranoid passages (a U.S. tour plagued by run-ins with gun-toting chauffeurs and music-union bullies), bursts of glory, and bittersweet breakups. Sprinkled throughout the professional anecdotes are personal reminiscences: eavesdropping on his older sisters' boyfriends (whose passionate pleas, Davies decides, were the inspiration for Kinks hits like "You Really Got Me" and "Set Me Free"), striking out with art-school "chicks," sibling rivalry with his lead-guitarist brother Dave (whose musical surrogate here is the superb sideman Pete Mathison), an actual encounter with John Lennon Himself (told with a delicious mix of starstruck awe and snide irreverence). The stories' themes echo those of the songs--social insecurity and sexual ambivalence in an age of trend-chasing mediocrity--and the evening as a whole feels like the Kinks' music: smart, scruffy, loosely structured, pervaded by an air of bemused detachment. Fey Ray's days as a chart-topper are far behind him--the closest thing to the throbbing sound of arena rock here is the seat-shaking rumble of the el train running by the intimate theater--but Davies at midlife has a promising career as a singing Spalding Gray. Apollo Theater Center, 2540 N. Lincoln, 902-1500. Through April 21: Thursday-Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 7:30 and 10:30 PM; Sunday, 7:30 PM. Then April 24 through 27: Wednesday-Friday, 8 PM; Saturday, 7:30 PM. $32.50-$37.50.

--Albert Williams

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