Monday, 20 December 2010


Ray Davies, we are told, can be a cantankerous, contrary old sod so it’s best to approach these things with an open mind. With little idea what to expect beyond the Crouch End Festival Choir are involved I wondered whether Ray might “treat” us to a bunch of Christmas hymns or plug his new duets album by dragging out special guests to massacre “Lola”. I wasn’t expecting two sets crammed with classics performed acoustically, with a small band, and finally with a massive choir (well, I predicted that last part).

He started the first set accompanied by Bill Shanly and they transformed the vast hall into a warm informal get-together in a pub back room. Early Kinks punker “I Need You” was given a thoughtful new arrangement with neat interplay between the two guitarists, whilst more familiar big hits were casually tossed off with Ray in a chatty mood and keen to get the crowd singing along. With his music hall grounding and it being pantomime season I’ll let it pass but I’m never keen on audience participation. It makes me cringe. I want to hear you sing Ray, not these people looking like they’re sat in front of the telly. Do I ask you to come and polish my lathe?

One chap from the back bellowed for “Harry Rag” and was rewarded with a quick off-the-cuff version. If I could've picked one wild-card number to hear it would've been that, so thanks to them both. Another lesser-spotter Kinks moment came with a lovely folksy “Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ About My Baby”. His small band emerged (they weren’t dwarves) during “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?” and kept things nice and simple before going into the interval with a thumping “20th Century Man”. Ray spent much of the time sat on a stall as his sparrow legs are so skinny they can’t support the weight when a guitar is hung around his neck.

That set had started with a song I didn’t recognize but was then - to the best of my memory - followed by I Need You, Apeman, Autumn Almanac, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, After The Fall, Nothin’ In The World Can Stop Me Worryin’ About That Girl, Well Respected Man, Dead End Street, Where Have All The Good Times Gone?, Vietnam Cowboys, Harry Rag, In A Moment, Tired Of Waiting, a bit of Victoria and the opening passage from X-Ray, and 20th Century Man.

When asked recently about a Kinks reunion Dave Davies said “I think the music is so beautiful it shouldn’t be tainted. It would be a shame. You don’t need to see silly old men in wheelchairs singing ‘You Really Got Me.’” An admirable stance but I wonder what he would’ve made of said song performed by brother Ray and a 50 strong choir during the second set. It was bizarre to see rows of well-to-do ladies and gents putting down their knitting and pipes to sing one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most primitive, guttural blasts from a music sheet. Not how I’d choose my music yet it gave an added dimension and though visually odd and sometimes distracting it was undoubtably effective on “See My Friends” and the selection from Village Green Preservation Society. If I wanted to hear them as per the records I could've stayed at home. There can be a fine line between adapting songs and ruining them but they were always on the right side.

As the dirty old river rolled in front of the Royal Festival Hall and millions of people swarmed like flies around Waterloo underground to the rear, “Waterloo Sunset” was especially emotive and although Ray didn’t mention it I couldn’t have been the only one to think then of Pete Quaife. Rest his soul.

So there you have it. No Santa hats, no Paloma Faith, just a thoroughly enjoyable selection of songs with glorious Kinks numbers easily rubbing shoulders with newer material. In a weekend when Davies wasn’t the only national treasure to perform in London (Paul who?), he was the only one who could top that earlier set with Celluloid Heroes, Victoria, Shangri-La, Imaginary Man, Village Green, Johnny Thunder, Village Green Preservation Society, Working Man’s Café, Sunny Afternoon, See My Friends, You Really Got Me, Postcards From London, Waterloo Sunset, Days, and All Day and All of the Night.


  1. The opening number was - This is where I belong.

  2. Great, thanks Nicki, appreciate that.

  3. Great review and by the looks of it a great set, I always find it a bit sad when the audience wants to sing along, I took my wife to see Crosby and Nash for her B-Day a few years back and it degenerated into the "Great Old Timey 60 Year Old Hippie Sing Along". Awful business this "audience participation". I took my mom to see Ray do his "Storyteller" tour here in N.J. 10 or 12 years ago and someone shouted out "All Night Stand" (it wasn't me I swear) and he sang a few lines from it, which is odd that he'd remember it. Still good to see he's out there still at it, Ray Davies deserves an MBE!

  4. He's got them all squirreled away. Someone else shouted for "Father Christmas" and he sang some of that too. (It's on the Come Dancing LP - I had to look it up...).

  5. I am gutted as I have just read this review and did not know this gig was taking place. I never miss the chance of seeing Ray perform (but I have to confess I did watch Glastonbury on the telly) but I am really sad to have missed this. I was planning on going to Denmark next year to see him but this seems to have been "postponed". Anyway, until the next time. Chris Reigate

  6. That's a real shame Chris. Will be interesting to see what he does as he said at the gig he'd be back next year (presumably at the Meltdown Festival which he's curating) "with something different".

  7. Hah - "well-to-do ladies and gents putting down their knitting and pipes" :-) Not sure how you know anything about our financial circumstances or manufacturing & smoking habits, mr monkey, but hey, we'll let that pass, since you were quite nice about the choral bits on the whole. Yes, I enjoyed this review (despite reading it months after the event). And it's a great photo - any chance of the choir (who work with Ray a lot, despite that fact that we are younger and poorer than him ;-) being allowed to use it on our website (crediting you as photographer, of course), please?

  8. Hi Ros -

    Never let the truth get in the way of a cheap gag, that's my motto...

    Please feel free to use the photo - nice of you to ask. Hope you get to work with Ray again. Best of luck.

  9. Thanks, fellow primate.

    We had fun singing with Ray on the last night of Meltdown on the South Bank (the whole of Village Green, with Orchestra!!!).