Ray Davies, Bloomsbury Theatre, London, from The Financial Times, September 30, 2004Ray Davies, Bloomsbury Theatre, London
By Ludovic Hunter-Tilney
Published: September 30 2004 03:00
Seeing Ray Davies perform his old Kinks songs is like being shown a faded blueprint for a certain strand of British pop music. Flashes of spiky observational humour anticipate The Buzzcocks. A mood of elegiac wistfulness sets you thinking about The Smiths. Music hall choruses tip the wink at Blur.
The Kinks were almost as influential as The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, although nowhere near as successful. In the late 1960s they fell out of fashion after being banned from touring the US.
In the 1970s their star waxed and then waned once more as they released a series of increasingly convoluted concept albums. Their deeply Anglocentric work is a curious mix of overlooked obscurities and much loved classics, such as "Sunny Afternoon" and "Waterloo Sunset".
"We're going to torture you with lots of flops and B-sides, bonus tracks, remixes, the lot," Davies warned us during this opening night of a short residency at the Bloomsbury, prompting nervous laughter.
The rarities in his set included a medley of songs from The Kinks's superb but neglected 1968 album The Village Green Preservation Society, recently reissued, and a so-so selection of solo material.
He ended with old favourites, including The Kinks' first number one hit "You Really Got Me", whose two-chord guitar riff sounds as razor-sharp and impatient for action as it did 40 years ago.
In January, Davies was shot in the leg while chasing a mugger in New Orleans, which meant that these dates had to be rescheduled. The 60-year-old looks to have made a full recovery: he was a sprightly presence on stage, acting out the different characters he writes about in his songs and encouraging a rather diffident audience to join in the choruses, as if we were taking part in a giant pub knees-up.
With his songs about village greens, cricket and fading summers, Davies has always been nostalgic for a lost, imaginary England. His genius in the 1960s was to turn his sense of loss into pop music that endures to this day.