REVIEW / Higher circles: Jasper Rees tries to forgive the Kinks at the Clapham Grand

Time has etched its signature into a band once described by a judge as 'highly temperamental, jealous and spoilt adolescents', but the chisel has dug deeper into Ray Davies than his kid brother Dave.

The philosopher-satirist of Muswell Hill is as wizened as any survivor from the golden age that spawned him. Dave, meanwhile, is a ringer for David Essex. Which just goes to show that looks aren't everything. This basic law of pop is supported by Ray's noisy repertoire of jackets, of the kind usually worn by people trying to stand out at regattas. Parked between the brothers is Jim Rodford, formerly of Argent, who looks lugubrious in black fedora as only bassists of a certain vintage can.

The biggest event in the current shake-up among the capital's live venues wasn't an evening for understatement. To celebrate the opening of the Clapham Grand's circle, who better to bring both seniority and rowdiness than the primordial pub rockers?

For much of the main set, quite a few names sprang to mind, actually, mainly coinciding with the more thunderous moments from the Kinks' new album, Phobia. Dave, who once thrummed some of the snappiest intros in pop before handing the limelight over to Ray for the rest of the song, was always straining to go the album way. On stage he falls somewhere between the pithy, close- harmonising sidekick he used to be and the rock god he wants to be.

In the light of which, thank heavens for the small-to-medium-sized venue. Though the Grand is not really in keeping with the stature their longevity ought to confer, the proximity of the back wall did them a power of good. When they lead the Glastonbury Festival this summer, you can't see their subtler instincts getting a look in as they did here.

It was in these moments that they sounded like a band that sounded like the Kinks. 'Come Dancing', from a previous comeback, and 'Scattered', from the current one, pastiched the deft stylings of their old standards. The difference is that the muse doesn't dog Ray's heels the way she used to.

Now and then he tantalised the throng with the opening chords of 'Lola', which turned up in rude good health towards the end of the two hours, along with all the usual suspects - 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Apeman', 'Death of a Clown', 'Where Have All the Good Times Gone', 'Dead End Street', 'All Day and All of the Night', 'Days' and, best of all, 'You Really Got Me'. After that lot you could forgive them anything. Except the upsetting omission of 'Waterloo Sunset'. Without that, we weren't quite in paradise.