Given Dave Davies current spiritual bent, he’s probably a firm believer in karma. And it is that principle of causality that works for him at The Barbican tonight, a venue not totally unfamiliar with rock music, but still lacking any semblance of a vibe, right down to the deafening silence before and after the support act.
Not that this dampened what was essentially a warm home-coming for the king of the power chord crunch and tone, who has worked hard to overcome the debilitating affects of a stroke. He spends much of the set overcoming apparent hand-to-eye coordination problems and a limited vocal range with a sheer will to do well.
Dave almost gives the impression that he’s thrown everything together at the last minute, but he’s smart enough to surround himself with a fine band – LA’s The Jigsaw Seen – and steer us in the direction of some decent self-penned material.
There’s no room for often overlooked ‘Lincoln County’ but he happily includes ‘Susannah’s Still Alive’, on which he gets slightly lost, but extricates himself from his predicament with an expansive sweep of his arm, as if to intimately share the moment.
‘Living On A Thin Line’ from The Kinks 1985 album ‘Word Of Mouth’ is another overlooked gem with a potent hook, and he dips into ‘Lola Versus Powerman’ for ‘Strangers’. The chorus: ‘Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two, we are one’, mirrors the sense of communality that glues the show together.
If the opening riff punctuated intro music is meant to be a reference to Dave’s integral role in the rise of heavy metal and the power riff, it’s a misleading signifier for tonight’s more introspective show. Sure, he touches base with early Kinks classics, such as the set opener ‘I Need You’, a well paced, ‘Tired of Waiting’, the drone like ‘See My Friends’, the cabaret call and response of ‘Dead End Street’ and the outright rocking ‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’ and predictably he saves the climactic ‘All Day And All Of The Night’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ until near the end.
But tonight is much less about the angry young amp slashing guitarist, and much more to do with the reflective spiritualist, who is not averse to exploring a long acoustic section including the reflective poignancy of ‘Healing Boy’ (from ‘I Will Be Me’), written in doting grandfather mode!
The autobiographical ‘Little Green Amp’ (an Elpico) incorporates his brother Ray’s ‘In The Summertime’ line – but it’s sadly all but lost in a horrible mushy mix, but the set rises again on ‘Flowers In The Rain’ (not The Move song) from ‘Bug’, an album that he tells us: ‘didn’t seem to make it over here’.
His vocals are cruelly exposed on the nostalgic ‘Young And Innocent Days’, which he dedicates to his brother ‘Raymond’. Sadly the words are cast adrift from the musical arrangement and lose some of their poignancy in a rambling arrangement that similarly afflicts the stop-start ‘Death Of A Clown’.
Having overcome a stuttering intro in which bassist Tom Currier switches to piano for a twice repeated opening motif – Dave all but abandons the song, only to re-connect with his willing audience who help him through the sing-along chorus, towards an unlikely rousing finish.
There are fleeting moments of the younger Davies, as he brusquely plunges into an opening riff of ‘Creeping Jean’, complete with repeated thunderous drum rolls from Teddy Freese, only to be momentarily taken aback by some flying underwear, an apparent symbolic reference to the lyrics that suggests The Kinks fan club are out in force.
If the jury is still out regarding his performance, it’s Dave’s ability to wear his heart on his sleeve that makes an essential connection with the crowd tonight. Without the aid of a safety net and never looking down, he just goes for it, much like he did when he originally stumbled on that timeless riff and buzz tone by cutting up his amp with a razor.
Metaphorically speaking, he comes out the other side battered and bruised, but still indefatigably the guitarist who gave the world the most unforgettable opening riffs in rock history. And as he covers ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’, who are we to argue?
Review by Pete Feenstra
Photos by Mark Hughes at MHP Studios
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 23 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 25 August 2020.
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