A Great Show, As Usual, From the Kinks
The Kinks At: Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts, with Aimee Mann, Tuesday night
If "Kinksian" - as Kinks guitarist Dave Davies defines it - means never quite fitting in with the crowd, pursuing your own path, and trying to keep your head held high, Tuesday night's performance by the Kinks at Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts was truly Kinksian.
On the day after Mick Jagger's 50th birthday - and at a time when some are pondering whether Jagger and the Rolling Stones have descended into the hell of self-parody - the Kinks remain at an artistic high. No signs of self-parody at all, in part because the Kinks have never based their existence on burning the eternal flame of youth. The Kinks were mature in their mid-20's and remain so a couple of decades down the line. Hence, old songs like "All Day and All of the Night", "'Till the End of the Day" and "You Really Got Me" sound as trenchant as new songs like "Aggravation" and "Still Searching." Conversely, the new songs don't sound like filler between greatest hits. A workable symbiosis.
But the Kinks - these Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famers, these owners of one of rock's grandest catalogs of songs - drew only 3,500 folks to the outdoor shed. Criminal, almost. Enough to make one want to raise the tattered old flag of "God Save the Kinks", a battle cry from the early '70s, days when it seemed like the Kinks would fade away because of lack of interest. Still, if the boomers have forgotten and the grunge kids don't care, the Kinks put out, and Kinks singer Ray Davies retains the rights to shuffle the cards at any moment.
He did that at the onset of Tuesday night's 95-minute set, by breaking from the set list and coming out alone to play the wonderful but obscure song of redemption "Sweet Lady Genevieve" from "Preservation Act I", followed by a couple of bars of "Do It Again." It was, in all likelihood, a nod to the recent Cambridge performances of the Kink's "Preservation Act 2" rock opera by a group of local musicians. Mick Maldonado - singer for the Uninvited, Mr. Flash in the local rendition, the guy who instigated the production - was in the crowd and beside himself. "It made me warm and tingly all over", he gushed. "I almost cried." Later, Ray Davies teased "Here Comes Flash" and brother Dave surprised him with an echo of the introductory guitar riff. Yes, it was a loose Kinks. Also, a warm, friendly and passionate Kinks, which is to say, it was business as usual but business was good.
One change in the weather was the return of longtime (but MIA) Kinks keyboardist Ian Gibbons, who joined the tour Monday night in Saratoga, thereby reuniting "the dwarves." (This is how the diminutive Gibbons and Jim Rodford refer to themselves; former drummer Mick Avory used to be a member of this elite corps - current skin walloper Bob Henrit is too darn tall). Another change was the Kinks bringing in dancers Pat Crosby (Ray's wife) and Susie Thomas for some impressive work on the sexy, blues-drenched "Sleazy Town" and the fierce, industrially tinged (no kidding) monster rocker, "Aggravation."
The Kinks balanced tunes from their latest album "Phobia" (which is stronger than I'd initially thought) with singalong crowd pleasers like "Lola" and "Low Budget" and chestnuts like "Apeman," "David Watts" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?" Ray Davies - the man of a thousand bad jackets, a guy who can proudly indulge in a goofball shtick like turning his Union Jack coat inside out into a Stars and Stripes coat - was nevertheless less clowny than he's been on past arena tours. No bogus "Lola" teases or endless "Way-O!" calls.
What do the Kinks mean in 1993? They still yearn for a better world - "I don't feel safe in this world no more/I don't wanna die in a nuclear war" in "Apeman" - and, in "Come Dancing", they ask you not to forget your youthful rock roots. With "Victoria", they chide and celebrate Britain's tattered empire; with "All Day and All of the Night", they celebrate an endless love that they know, deep down, will never work. But they celebrate the whole panoply, and it's no chore to join in.
Memo to the club kids: You may think Ru Paul's a pretty sharp gender-blender, but Ray's "Lola" was pulling that trick before Ru was born.
Jim Sullivan, Boston Globe, July 27, 1993