A lot of artists could learn from Ray Davies. Arriving on stage looking dapper in drainpipe jeans and a pair of tattered runners The Kinks singer and chief songwriter shows a level of respect for his audience and his back catalogue that the likes of Bob Dylan or Ryan Adams could take note of. Davies knows exactly what’s expected of him, and tonight he delivers in a warm and informal manner absent of any resentment for having to trudge through his greatest hits.
Opening with a bare-boned acoustic set, and with only Dublin-based guitarist Bill Shanley as accompaniment, he proceeds to run through some of the finest songs in popular music. In hearing -Autumn Almanac’, -Where Have All The Good Times Gone’, -Nothing In This World’, -A Well Respected Man ‘ and -Sunny Afternoon’, it reminds you as to just how influential a songwriter Davies has been. His vignettes on British life formed the blueprint for Britpop and when he jokingly introduces -Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ as an ‘English folk song’, he’s not far wide of the mark.
At times though his acoustic set is lost with the formal confines of Grand Canal Theatre. The audience is placed to sit back and enjoy a show while Davies is keen to interact, dropping adlibs in-between lyrics and firing-up the crowd to sing-a-long. His eagerness for participation is perhaps prompted by illness. His voice, in tatters on occasion, has been hit with a dose of the flu and the 66-year-old later admits that he was close to cancelling the gig. It’s a good thing he didn’t as it would have meant missing out on tonight’s stunningly simple rendition of -Waterloo Sunset’, which drifts out beautifully backed by Shanley’s delicate guitar licks and has lost none of its aching beauty. Timeless is a word oft used, but none seems more apt.
When the band joins in mid-way through, things notably seem more comfortable. Light on Kinks classics, this segment is mainly drawn from Davies solo work and, though there are dreary moments of indulgence, Davies is notably more enthused to be belting out a raft of, rather fine, newer material. -Vietnam Cowboys’ from 2007’s Working Man’s CafÃ©, along with -After The Fall’ from 2006’s Other People’s Lives, are some of his best-ever cuts.
-David Watts’, -Set Me Free’ and -All Day And All Of The Night’ close out the night and offer further example of his genius. When the list of great songwriters is often bellowed out, Ray Davies’ name is usually forgotten. Tonight was a gentle reminder that when the table’s set out, Davies is most deserving of a seat.