Saturday October 13th
Birmingham Symphony Hall
Amidst an extensive tour, Ray Davies’ Birmingham stopover managed to impress and entertain, despite a late start. Dave Jennings gives us the full story.
There canât be too many national treasures who are subjected to the slow handclap for perceived tardiness on stage, yet are still able to hold the audience in their palm for ninety blissful minutes andÂ leave them baying for more. However, in his own words, Ray Davies is â not like everybody elseâ and striding onto the stage a good 25 minutes after the house announcer told us the show was about to start, he simply spread his arms and said âthatâs a great welcome for Bill [Shanly, his excellent guitarist] but what about me?â If anyone truly thought a slow handclap would bother a man who for nearly 50 of the most creative years in rock history has turned contrariness into an art-form whilst simultaneously inspiring and infuriating those closest to him, they were sadly mistaken. Despite any other creative baggage he may carry, on-stage Ray Davies is truly at home and proceeds to lead his audience through some of the finest moments in rock history.
Kicking off with just Bill on stage, âthe Modfatherâs Godfatherâ launched into the traditional opener of âThis is where I belongâ, followed by the lyrical gyrations of âAutumn Almanac âand âdedicated Follower of Fashionâ it was clear this would be an evening of familiar hits, and thereâs certainly plenty of them to choose from.Â Always worth hearing are the stories that accompanyÂ these songs like the bewilderment of the other Kinks on hearing âSee My Friendsâ for the first timeâ, apparently was something like âWe love it, but havenât got a clue what youâre going on aboutâ. Whilst Ray is undoubtedly a master of his craft, the arrival on stage of the rest of his band during the still hugely relevant lament that is âDead End Streetâ, added the depth to the sound that is so essential to so manyÂ of these songs.
Shortly after this, Ray left the stage for the first of several changes of clothing before returning for âVictoriaâ and then the epic â20th Century Manâ where, as usual, he reads the intro from X-Ray, his autobiography that perfectly showcases his life-long hatred of bureaucracy and people dressed in grey, as well as delivering biting satire on the age in which the song was written, âthe wonderful world of technology/ napalm, hydrogen bomb, biological warfareâ. Those who are searching for the roots of punk could do worse than examine the career of Ray Davies and work back from there. More Kinks classics follow in âTil the end of the dayâ and âWhere have all the good times gone?â before a breathlessÂ version of âMuswell Hillbilliesâ is followed by âWaterloo Sunsetâ as it was first played for Dave Daviesâs approval, the ex-Kink guitarist and younger sibling of Ray was name-checked several times to the approval of the audience. The theme of his family, which runs through the Davies song-book, Â was evident in several songs here tonight, most touchingly onâ Oklahoma USAâ Â about the escapist dreams of his sister Rosie and âA long Way From Homeâ written for brother Dave in 1970 at the end of a decade of hell-raising behaviour. Bringing the set to a close with a shout of ârock and roll will never dieâ, âAll Day and All of the Nightâ displays all the energy that is still part of the Davies DNA.
Returning for an encore of âDaysâ quietly dedicated to Pete Quaife followed by âCome Dancingâ for his sister Rene whoâs tragic story inspired the song, Ray had them literally dancing in the aisles despite the best efforts of overly officious security to stop it. Following the traditional handshakes with the crowd at the end, Ray decided spontaneously to bring back his band and doâ Lolaâ which was to bring the show to an end. Leaving the stage to shouts for more, he had clearly decided that tonight there would be no performance of âYouâve Really Got Meâ. We were promised a return next year with a new album and, if that proves to be the case, it should be a date for the diary. You should always try to see a legend, theyâre not making many more of them.
All words by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave HERE.