Ray Davies, Royal Albert Hall, London

Forgotten gems are lovingly resurrected
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The Independent Culture

"Welcome to London," Davies says a couple of songs in, still stick-thin, awkward, and strangely ageless. He has begun with I'm Not Like Everybody Else, the anti-anthem to his own twisted nature that he hid on a B-side in 1966 but now regularly roars proudly at gigs.

His very decent band then help him stitch together the Sixties classic Till the End of the Day and the new After the Fall. These musicians will never be The Kinks, largely because they lack the goading presence of Ray's nemesis and necessary foil, brother Dave. They do, though, give supple force to his songs, a faint reminder that, almost in passing, The Kinks helped invent heavy metal.

Davies's creative heartland, though, is a darker, lonelier place, a version of old north-London suburbs that may now exist only in his memory. The recent Yours Truly, Confused, N10 and the vintage 20th Century Man share a sense of fear at the world beyond his door. The latter's memorable phrase rejects the whole century he was born in: "I don't want to die here."

Such emotions are balanced, though, by a love for the people of his past far deeper than nostalgia. In "Oklahoma USA", from 1971's lost masterpiece Muswell Hillbillies, he imagines his sister dreaming of Hollywood, while buried alive in Muswell Hill. Sung solo, the melody and lyrics are bone-china delicate, and lavender-soft. It's a song, and a performance, to cancel all Davies's sins.

An acoustic medley from that other mislaid Kinks classic, 1968's Village Green Preservation Society, reinforces the feeling of an English dreamland. Not that Davies has ever been soft. "Are you the guy that heckled Dylan?" he silences one insistent Albert Hall drunk.

More breathtaking, forgotten gems are remembered and lovingly resurrected, right back to 1965's I Go to Sleep. By the time he gets to Days, taken a cappella like a hymn, the wonders are overwhelming. A screaming guitar blast through All Day and All of the Night and the sketched acoustic vignette of "Two Sisters" show how well he has come to understand his achievements. For the transsexual triumph "Lola", the crowd are on their feet like it's the national anthem. By the song that should be, Waterloo Sunset, the only surprise left is that the roof remains on.

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