FIRST NIGHT REVIEW: Ray Davies at Kenwood

PUBLISHED: 16:17 02 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:17 07 September 2010

THUNDER storms, flooding and soggy deckchairs made for the start that Kenwood s organisers had all been dreading. Hamp-stead Heath could hardly have felt any grislier by the time Ray Davies strode out onto the stage on Saturday. The warm lighting that bat

THUNDER storms, flooding and soggy deckchairs made for the start that Kenwood's organisers had all been dreading. Hamp-stead Heath could hardly have felt any grislier by the time Ray Davies strode out onto the stage on Saturday.

The warm lighting that bathed him in an orange glow marked a stark contrast with the darkest grey engulfing the audience by this point in the evening.

It must have been a peculiarly British picture from the stage - a sea of bedraggled watchers sitting in deckchairs, umbrellas erect as they picked their way through soggy picnics in the driving rain.

Davies did his best to lighten the mood, his chipper demeanour cutting through the gloom as the audience cheered him on with a toast of rainwater wine spritzers.

"I'd be out there with you if I could," he said - although several incredulous dissenters in the crowd clearly thought he was embellishing the truth.

He may be firmly in the twilight of his performing career but Davies still cut a sprightly figure on stage, dressed all in black and performing an impish scissor-kick on the last beat of a few songs.

His jolly dignity lapsed only at the very end of the night during an encore when he started gyrating and gesticulating in a manner slightly unbecoming for an elder statesman of rock.

However, I was taken by surprise by the sheer percentage of the songs that I had known all along without realising they were by the Kinks, such is the extent of Davies' influence on modern pop culture.

Familiar melodies surfaced throughout the show - from the lilting Waterloo Sunset and the still-hip You Really Got Me, to Dedicated Follower of Fashion and the anthemic Lola.

About half an hour into the show the Crouch End Festival Chorus, led by David Temple, marched onto the stage and took their seats behind Davies' band. This twist raised the show above the level of a fond but tired nostalgia-fest, and gave the well known tunes a distinctly new texture.

As predicted by Davies himself, Waterloo Sunset was the highlight with the chorus's ghostly refrain the perfect foil to his heartfelt, frayed vocal delivery.

Nowadays his voice has lost the elastic, trebly twang of old and occasionally some of its strength of purpose ebbed away as he strained for the higher notes. But for the most part, he sang with a warmth and affection, cajoling the audience to sing with cheeky prompts between lines, like asking 'When did it happen?' during his rendition of Sunny Afternoon. The singing crowd gleefully answered back: "In the summer time."

Although the rain proved too much for many people, a lot stayed - most obviously the gathering of hardcore Davies acolytes who bopped along happily in their mackintoshes at the front of the enclosure from start to finish.

Tan Parsons


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