Ray Davies, Royal Albert Hall, London<br/> The Needs, Madame Jo Jo, London

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When Ray Davies, inside the venue he describes as "a giant cake", promises "I won't play too many of these retro songs", with a three-hour set in front of us, you feel that this could be a long, long night.

Fortunately, the former Kink is teasing us. Eventually, in a set which strays way past the 11pm curfew, he'll wheel out "All Day And All Of The Night", "David Watts". "I Go To Sleep", "Days", "Deadend Street", "Tired Of Waiting For You", "Autumn Almanac" and all the other hits.

Throughout four decades in music, little has changed, externally or internally. He's stuck to his 1964 fashion fundamentals: drainpipe-legged suit, red shirt, green Stratocaster, thinning mod mullet, and quaint spindly dancing.

His lyrical obsessions, too, are a constant. Introducing "Village Green", Davies admits that his songs were "full of all these fantasies about an England that never existed in the first place". This most English of songwriters was always an ambivalent social satirist. He may have gently mocked the bourgeoisie (in "Well-Respected Man") or the distressed gentry ("Sunny Afternoon"), but he was equally disdainful of groovy hipsters ("Dedicated Follower Of Fashion"). And - unlike Manfred Mann's "semi-detached suburban Mr James" or Bob Dylan's Mr Jones (who knew something was going on, but didn't know what it was) - there always seemed to be a premonition that Davies would one day join their ranks. Indeed, in "Yours Truly, Confused, N10", a new song about a "pissed-off suburbanite" who moans about newspapers full of tits and bums and dotcom millionaires, and murderers and terrorists receiving lenient sentences, Davies' distance from the narrator doesn't seem to be very great at all.

His other obsession is crowd singalongs. "Follow the red ball... Let's raise the roof of the old shed... Sing along or I'll go home. I've got a curry in the fridge. Pop it in the microwave, and I'm there." He needs that approval. He's become cranky with age, dealing mercilessly with a heckler who requests "rock'n'roll": "If you want rock'n'roll, fuck off! Did you pay for that seat? Are you the guy who yelled at Bob Dylan? Go to Brighton and bother the Labour Party!"

Despite his instincts, he eventually relents and reverts to crowd-pleasing mode. By the end of the encores, I've heard Ray Davies sing "You Really Got Me", "Waterloo Sunset" (a melody that can break a heart at 20 paces) and "Lola", The Kinks' then-revolutionary No 2 hit about a sexual encounter with a transvestite, and I can say I've lived. So has Ray Davies, in his day. But for now, he's back to N10, to reheat his curry.

To the untrained ear, The Needs may appear to be just another product of London's post-Libertines scene, but the reality is much more interesting. Zachary Stephenson and co make music with a shambolic charm, delivered with the drive and passion of Dexys Midnight Runners, and equally influenced by Fifties doo-wop, Sixties girl-pop and old cabaret showtunes. Following a dalliance with Alan McGee's Poptones label (a connection which fostered even more Libertines comparisons), The Needs are currently unsigned and any record label could do a lot worse than take a look. You have to love any band who blow their budget for new instruments on buying dodgem cars.

s.price@independent.co.uk

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