Tuesday 11 March 2014

Ray Davies, Union Chapel

In a way, I'm kind of cheating. Neither the venue nor seeing this man perform were new experiences for me, but I had such a fab time that I just had to share it with everyone. Shockingly, the Telegraph only gave the gig two stars. Well sucks to be you, Telegraph, I'm with the Guardian - top marks to Mr Davies for a excellent night.

I usually hate the use of this word, but really, Ray Davies is a legend. His music is timeless; in August, "You Really Got Me" will be 50 years old, but whether 1964 or 2014, if it comes on at a party, there's gonna be dancin'.

The Union Chapel is a magical place anyway. So intimate, but also so calm and tranquil. Music resonates in a church like no other venue, and listening to Ray and his two companions on guitars, it was perfect.

This "Americana" tour marks the release of Ray Davies' book of the same name. This book reflects on his love of America as a young boy and teenager, his trips there as a member of The Kinks (including their ban from 1965-69...) and his return for another tour, inconveniently timed in September 2001. On this latter venture stateside he not only witnessed the mourning cities after 9/11, but also he had a transformative experience in New Orleans, where he was shot and nearly lost his life (he can laugh about it now, as he limps on and off the stage, making jokes about new hits like "You Really Shot Me"). Whether good times or bad, it's always come back to the music, inspiring Ray's own songwriting for over five decades.

The evening of music was interjected with Ray reading extracts from the book (including his witty self-commentary), as well as home videos from his time overseas. Although quite lengthy, they were also interesting and informative, and it was great to see the birth of some of his more recent songs which we heard on the night. He hinted at an Americana album, which I'd be excited to hear. Some great songs  he performed were "Voodoo Walk" and "I've Heard That Beat Before".

The movies were informative, the reading was humorous, the new stuff was great, but let's face it, we were all there for one reason... the classics. There's always a little worry with a new tour that the artist might leave them out of the set list, but I fear there would have been blood on the streets of Islington if he had. We got the whole package that night though; sometimes we'd be tricked it into thinking it was something else, then you'd hear a familiar chord and... "The taxman's taken all my dough...." . My highlight, as I knew it would be, was Waterloo Sunset. Certainly one of my desert island discs, I could listen to that record over and over again, but that night, there was an extra something special. Knowing I was sitting there, hearing it live, played by the man who wrote it. Not only that, but we were not very far from Muswell Hill, the influence for so many of The Kinks' songs, and I'd just come from work in Waterloo, commuting through the station like all those millions of people, swarming like flies.

Being a Londoner, I feel hugely privileged to say I've seen one of the frontmen of the British Invasion perform not once now, but twice - he's one of those performers who's still so strong, because he's never really stopped. 


  1. Excellent write up.....I agree with every word. I hope you don't mind but I've linked it to my Facebook page. Gary.

  2. Thanks for giving us a look into Ray's show.

  3. Thanks you both so much - your kind words mean a lot to me. Gary, I'm so glad you agree, and of course, please do share :)