(Ed. note: It is my core belief that music is for everyone to experience, explore and enjoy throughout life, which is why I always encourage people of all ages to attend concerts. There is nothing like the feeling and connection of live music. So I couldn't be happier to bring you today's Guest Post from my mom, who attended a show by Ray Davies last night in Madison, Wisconsin. She kindly wrote down some of her impressions and read them aloud to me over the phone this afternoon, where I typed them pretty much verbatim. She's the best.)

by J.C.

It was a clear, crisp evening in Madison and was 6:30PM by the time we three ladies got our car parked. A line three-deep stretched about half a block outside the Barrymore Theater to see that night’s concert by Ray Davies and The 88. While waiting, I remarked about Monty’s Blue Plate Diner across the street and their divine pies. A round guy in back of us said they were good, but his were better. He used lard, he said, and so the conversation went with the pie guy, who ended up sitting two rows in front of us. In five or ten minutes the doors opened and we moved along and into the theater. We chose middle seats across the aisle from the sound guy who was taped off to keep people from sitting next to the big equipment. Economics being what they are, the reclamation of the theater was not exactly a restoration. As a child in the ‘20s and ‘30s, I recall those grand palaces painted in deep or bright glossy colors trimmed with gilt, and this was not seen at the present-day Barrymore. Well, they did keep the twinkling lights scattered over the whole ceiling.

I went directly to the table in the lobby where a rather grumpy old guy was in charge of selling stuff. I got a Ray program. To my surprise, only 15-20% of the people were seated when we went in and most of those were the front 4 or 5 rows center stage. Most  folks were milling about in the foyer, buying drinks, etc. Eventually closer to show time, the place filled up to the balcony. “Good!” I thought, as I was calculating, imagining all the varied costs to put on the show. The crowd looked like ordinary folks wearing jeans, not like the dress up of the Overture events in Madison. At a rough glace the ages ranged from upper 20s at the youngest, most were middle-aged in their 30s and 40s, and a quite a few people in their 50s and 60s. Then there was me, weeks away from 85.

Soon, the 88 just started off with a powerful bang. Wow! Loud! With my diminishing hearing it was impossible for me to make out much of the lyrics but the music struck me as very good listening. The 88 had such skinny legs, ankles and thighs same size. Black skintight pants with tan shoes! Some jerks to our right and rear started shouting “RAY!” at the band, to the groans and boos of the audience. After quite a bit of that, the lead singer stepped forward a moment before he began the next song and called out “RAY!” to the audience's delight and applause. I kept noticing a guy bent over like Quasimodo, dashing off and on the stage to deliver what looked like a brightly-sequined tambourine. First, to the right side musician, then to the left side musician. I thought, couldn’t they afford two tambourines? All during the show, people scattered through the audience, getting up and coming back. Bathroom? Drinks? It was a bit distracting, because I really thought the 88 were excellent showmen and put on a tremendous performance.

When Ray Davies arrived on the stage it seemed like about 50% of the crowd was standing and by the end they just stayed standing, sometimes stretching both arms to the twinkling stars above in complete unison, freed of all except the joy and delight of the music and the musicians/magicians. His performance was delivered with great enthusiasm, and just kept on full speed all the way. As the show progressed, he engaged the audience more and more all the time, asking them all to sing lines with him, until the house was really rocking. The audience was like one big echo to what Ray asked them to sing back to him, like during “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” I sang too! It was an exhilarating thing. Ray is a true entertainer. He acknowledged all the other musicians on stage, and is a very gracious performer and a real gentleman. He doesn’t show any ego onstage. His music is really great stuff and it was obvious that everyone was thrilled to be there.

I would like to have heard more of the old Kinks favorites like Lola, Victoria, etc. but I enjoyed all the songs very much. Ray came back for an encore sans coat and I thought he looked far too thin. He puts so much of everything of himself out to the adoring crowd. It occurred to me, how much is there to give? Enough for all the other venues? I wanted to give him a Cinnabon and fatten him up. I realized that when the show came to an end, the smile on my face had remained in place the whole time, even through the annoyance of the 7’ (do I exaggerate?) guy whose knees kept time on the back of my seat. Oh well, at least he kept good time!

As we made our way out, I stopped at Grumpy’s table again and asked to buy a medium-sized black t-shirt, but nope, only smalls left. But one of my friends scored a lime-green show flyer which I will duly send to my dear daughter who ordered the tickets for the show. On the long drive home, I reminisced about the two times she introduced me to Ray in Madison. That was 30 or 35 years ago, I believe. Just think! He has been reaching out and touching our hearts all that time, years before and years since.

It was so nice in this world where there is much political division to see a whole room of complete strangers, free of the bad stuff and foolishness, come together and have a wonderful evening. The power of music! Rock on, Ray!