Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On Saturday night Owen and I went to see the legend that is Ray Davies at Hammersmith - which thank God has a roof - Constant Reader, you will remember we went to see him earlier this year in an open-air gig at Kenwood House - where it absolutely TIPPED down! However, as awful as it should have been, there was something resolutely Kinksian in the sight of us all sitting there in the pouring rain listening to songs about the oddness of Englanders!

However back in the dry...The show consisted of 100% Ray - no need for a support when you have so much material to draw on! The first segment featured Ray playing acoustically with fellow guitarist Bill Shanley then being joined onstage by his band. In the second half he was joined on stage by The Crouch End Festival Chorus for choral renditions of some of his greatest songs.

He was wonderfully acerbic about how some of his songs were less successful at the time than others and he is as baffled by the ways of the music business as ever. He joked with the audience's half-arsed attempts at banter but more often than not he was taking us through his amazing catalogue of songs. Ray is rightfully proud of his songs - and more often than not played the chorus again after the finished the song so everyone could join in again!
Personal favorites were from the acoustic section "I'm Not Like Everybody Else", "Sunny Afternoon", "Apeman" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" - singing the last verse a la Johnny Cash which sounded strangely believable - from the section with his band I loved "Dead End Street" and "Where Have All The Good Times Gone". He also sang the lovely "Postcards From London" which he insisted wasn't a Christmas song - despite the fact it's mentioned in the song!

Although the chorus sometimes sound strange on some of the tracks - "All Day And All Of The Night" just sounds odd - more often than not they lift the songs into whole new realms of Englishness, none more so than on the medley of songs from "Village Green Preservation Society". They also boosted "See My Friends" into a strangely transcendental moment in time while "Victoria" nearly took the roof off Hammersmith Apollo.

I wish I knew what was in the DNA of the song "Waterloo Sunset" that gets the tears rolling down my face but it does - every time. I can usually hold it together until the last verse but then I just
go. It is one of only a few songs that affects me in a deeply profound way.

I was hoping Ray might have mentioned Kirsty MacColl in his introduction to "Days" as she is as much associated with the song now as he is - if not more - but it was not to be. It was still a moving experience however. The evening was rounded off with an encore of "Lola" - "that old faggot song" as his neighbours in New Orleans used to call it!

I have seen Ray Davies twice this year so hopefully he will be as good as his word and be back next year.


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