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Copyright Nick Morgan and crew

Concert Review by Nick Morgan

The Albert Hall, London, May 10th 2007

Blimey – it’s the Albert Hall, a right royal gaff (as you might say in France) if there ever was one! We’ve just had a few pints of mixed at the Queen Vic and popped over to catch lead Kink Ray Davies in concert with his band. It’s a first for Whiskyfun, if not for us, so just in case you don’t know this place was built in the late 1860s (it opened in 1871) as a tribute to the late Royal Consort Prince Albert (who is also fondly recalled by some for his contribution to male genital piercing).

Albert Hall Fact: 70,000 blocks of terra-cotta were used in its construction. Albert’s glinting-gold memorial (no piercing in sight), beautifully restored and recently reopened is across the road; in fact it’s captured in perfect outline through the huge windows of the upper circle bar. Inside the auditorium feels like a massive cavern (I used to do some caving – or speleology as the experts say - and it reminds me of being at the bottom of the famous Gaping Gill cave in the Yorkshire Dales).
“The interior” wrote one Victorian critic, “which is amphitheatrical in construction – like, for example, the Coliseum at Rome – is grotesquely inappropriate to any purpose for which it is ever likely to be required”. As a result of the lottery that is online ticket purchasing (“best available tickets”) we’re on the highest level, almost dead centre, with the royal box (I’m not sure if her Majestyness has dropped in to see her most loyal songster) beneath us. The stage, which sits beneath the Hall’s imposing organ, the largest pipe-organ in the UK (fact: it has 9,997 pipes), is a seriously long way away. Our seats
Sadly the Hall is a bit short of its 5000 capacity; I’d estimate no more than two thirds full. The online ticket machine has filled from the centre up, so the rows of seats to the left and right of us are largely empty (how many tickets, I wonder, to turn a profit?).
In front of us are a party of seven – it transpires they are three generations of a family from the States (Utah and Montana) and they’re here on a flying rock and roll tour . Ray Davies, Roger Waters, Mary Poppins (well – that’s for the youngest member of the group, who manages to sleep through most of this gig – “yeah, we’ll tell her about it in the morning”) and then Roger Waters again in Dublin. They like Roger a lot. And back home when they’re not chasing gigs they even holiday on rock and roll cruises – their favourite is the Lynyrd SkynyrdSimple Man” Cruise (did I mention that I once saw what was claimed to be the shirt that Ronnie Van Zant was wearing when he died in that infamous plane crash in Mississippi in 1977, in a museum exhibit in Macon, Georgia?). They’re all as tired as hell – not surprising as they only arrived in the morning and they’ve spent the day in the British Museum (“wow, that’s some museum”), but like the rest of the audience they’re all on their feet by the end of the night. And assuming you didn’t lose the little piece of paper the Photographer gave you and you’re reading this, respect, folks – I hope you had a good and safe trip.
Ray Davies
Having said all of that I would have to observe that tonight is hard work for Ray compared to last year’s gig at the Bush, and if we were all on our feet at the end it was largely due to affection and respect for such a fantastic songwriter and performer rather than to an infectious atmosphere. That part of the show didn’t really seem to kick off – even the sing along stuff was half hearted. Ironically Ray and his band were probably better – singing and performing top class, and very good (if not slightly loud) sound. That I’ve no doubt is as a result of being in an optimum position (thank you online ticket machine), but it’s also thanks to the fibre-glass acoustic diffusers which hang from the ceiling like flying saucers, the most recent attempt to deal with the acoustic problems that have bedevilled the Hall since its construction. The set is well-structured and follows the Bush sequence quite closely – starting with ‘I’m not like everybody else’. From last year’s Other People’s Lives we get ‘Next door neighbour’, ‘After the fall’, ‘The getaway’ and ‘The tourist’ - probably some of the best songs on that album and really well performed tonight, holding their own against Davies’ remarkable Kinks songbook. There are also two very strong unrecorded songs, ‘No one’s going to listen to me’ (with delicious hints of Mose Allison) and ‘Imaginary man’, both of which seem to be rooted in Davies’ New Orleans experiences, not least getting shot in the leg by a mugger back in 2004.
As for the hits – well you can probably imagine, although a surprise was ‘A long way from home’ rescued from the 1970s and dedicated to brother Dave Davies, whom you may like to know, is sufficiently recovered from his stroke of 2004 (not a good year for the Davies brothers then) to release a new album last year, Fractured Mindz.    
The original Kinks - from left to right: Pete Quaife, Dave Davies, Mick Avory, and Ray Davies
Ray speaks fondly of his sometime musical partner, sometime adversary, and tells a bunch of stories, many of which we heard last time, but they bear retelling. He’s as sprightly as a whippet, in tight drainpipe trousers and trainers, exhibiting an agility that would be remarkable in a forty year old – he’s sixty-three. Bugger!
In all he plays twenty-five songs, not quite a record but pretty close to it – just think of being able to finish with an encore comprising ‘Days’, ‘Imaginary man’, ‘You really got me’, ‘Waterloo sunset’ and, well, you should be able to guess the final song given where we were. And even if the atmosphere was lacking it’s still a triumph – I don’t need to add that if you ever get a chance it’s well worth a few of your quids to go and see him. - Nick Morgan (concert photographs by Kate)

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