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Ray Davies, Yo La Tengo

While their contemporaries in Sonic Youth once ventured that the best approach to the past was to kill your idols, the members of art-pop stalwart Yo La Tengo have always been more willing to venerate theirs -- as evidenced by this alternately intriguing and frustrating stand as a kinda Kinks backing band for British rock legend Ray Davies.

Cast:
Band: Ray Davies, Pete Matheson, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, James McNew.

While their contemporaries in Sonic Youth once ventured that the best approach to the past was to kill your idols, the members of art-pop stalwart Yo La Tengo have always been more willing to venerate theirs — as evidenced by this alternately intriguing and frustrating stand as a kinda Kinks backing band for British rock legend Ray Davies.

Ostensibly designed for Davies to work out the kinks (sorry) in material destined for an upcoming Capitol album, the two-hour set also served as a cross between a tribute show and a live-action version of MTV’s “Fanatic.” Thanks to the prodding of his temporary co-conspirators, Davies dipped deep into his back catalog, pulling out such little-known Kinks tunes as “No Return” and “Animal Farm,” which he insisted had never been played live before.

Much of the newer material previewed here — like the jazzy “Next Door Neighbor” — harked back to the Kinks’ less commercial but critically acclaimed middle period. The rustic charm of that song, as well as a marvelously crafted weeper called “Bridge for Dreams,” was underscored by the light-but-steady drumming of Georgia Hubley.

Hubley, guitarist-husband Ira Kaplan and bassist James McNew proved fine foils for Davies, grasping not only the form of his compositions but the spirit as well. That was particularly evident on a dissonant rave-up called “The Morning After,” on which Kaplan unleashed a distorted solo that would have done brother Dave Davies proud.

Davies meandered a bit, however, when the Yo La gang left the stage. He indulged himself with an overlong “experimental” bit that matched spoken word with triggered samples, overwhelming guitarist Pete Matheson’s contributions. His self-reflexive tendencies got a bit out of hand on some of the more structured material as well, notably the treacly soul mooning of “Otis Riffs.”

The sheer intimacy of the show — and Davies’ surprisingly relaxed mood — made up for those moments of tedium. It was practically impossible not to get swept up in the cathartic energy of “You Really Got Me.”

Ray Davies, Yo La Tengo

Jane Street Theater, New York; 375 seats; $25 top

Production: Presented inhouse. Opened and reviewed Aug. 23, 2000; closed Aug. 25.

Cast: Band: Ray Davies, Pete Matheson, Ira Kaplan, Georgia Hubley, James McNew.

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