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Davies rocks with fans down memory lane

''I'm not like everybody else," Ray Davies sang in the opening number of his concert last night at the Orpheum. He sure isn't. A leader of a legendary British Invasion band -- the Kinks -- who waited until this year to put out his first solo album, Davies went his own way back in the 1960s and, at 61, he continues to do so. The show was a joyful, sharp-edged nostalgia trip that walked the line between irony, shambling music-hall archness, and straight-up rock 'n' roll.

One of rock's elder statesmen, Davies has long since had his revenge on history. ''The Village Green Preservation Society," the gentle 1968 Kinks album that sold about five copies during the heyday of psychedelia, is now, as he acknowledged, a cult classic, and the acoustic selection of its songs was the high point of the evening's first set. ''Animal Farm," ''Johnny Thunder," ''Village Green," ''Picture Book" -- these are songs that now sound eternal.

Elsewhere, Davies and his band alternated the brashly thoughtful tunes off his recently released album ''Other People's Lives" with indestructible Kinks chestnuts. Some of the new songs, like ''After the Fall" and ''Creatures of Little Faith," don't have the piercing eloquence of old, but they mean a lot to him and that's how he sang them. Others, like the sardonic ''The Tourist" or the wryly sympathetic ''Next Door Neighbour," glimmer with the double-edged wit that made Davies perhaps the most singular songwriter of the British Invasion.

As he sang those oldies, there was a touch of roteness in Davies's exhortations to the audience to clap their hands and sing along with ''Sunny Afternoon," ''Where Have All the Good Times Gone," and the still-lovely-after-all-these-years ''Tired of Waiting." Forty years of showmanship has ingrained itself awfully deeply.

Perhaps he missed his kid brother, Kinks lead guitarist Dave Davies; the climax of the show's second set was a narrative journey through the group's earliest hits, ''You Really Got Me," ''All Day and All of the Night," and the aching ''Set Me Free." Mark Johns performed passable -- meaning unmessy -- Dave imitations on guitar, while keyboardist and accordionist Gunnar Frick provided cheeky fills and unexpected splashes of musical color throughout the evening.

Some favorites were missed -- no ''Waterloo Sunset," no ''Celluloid Heroes," no ''Victoria" -- but the evening ended, as it had to, with a jangling and triumphant version of ''Lola." How many times has Ray Davies sung that catchy ode to transvestitism ? Five hundred? A thousand? And how did he manage to still invest it with humanity last night?

Ty Burr can be reached at

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